The French police officer who swapped himself for a female supermarket employee being held hostage was killed by a Muslim terrorist in Trebes, France. He had already led a decades-long career of commendations for bravery by the time he walked unarmed into the supermarket being held by an armed Muslim extremist.
Well-known among colleagues for his courage and kindness, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame was officially honored as a national hero Saturday, after his death from wounds received in the line of duty the day before.
After unhesitatingly agreeing to swap himself with a hostage, Beltrame surrendered his sidearm — but kept his cellphone on speakerphone, allowing French special police (SWAT) positioned outside the Super U market in the southern French town of Trebes to hear what was going on inside. Thanks to Beltrame’s quick thinking, SPU officers heard gunshots inside the store Friday afternoon, and quickly stormed the building, killing the attacker.
The hostage whose life Beltrame saved, a supermarket employee named Julie, was in a “catastrophic state,” her manager stated.
French investigators searched the home of the attacker, Moroccan-born Redouane Lakdim, 25, and found what a judicial official stated were hand-written notes “that alluded to the Islamic State and appeared like a last testament.” They also found a computer and a phone, which are currently being searched for information that may lead to further arrests.
Inside the market itself, investigators found 3 homemade improvised explosive devices, a large quantity of explosive materials, a handgun and a large hunting knife, according to an official statement.
So how did all this begin? Lakdim was known to French authorities for petty crime, domestic violence and multiple drug charges. In fact, he had been on their radar for several years, with French authorities and InterPol concerned over possible online communications between Lakdim and Muslim terrorist organizations. As of 2014, he was also added to the Fiche S list, a government registry of people suspected of being radicalized Muslim extremists, and added to the country’s no fly list. Despite all this, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said there was “no warning sign” that Lakdim would carry out such an attack.
The violence began at 10:13 a.m. Friday, when Lakdim hijacked a car near Carcassonne, killing the passenger and severely wounding the driver. He then fired six shots at a group of offduty police officers, who had just finished their morning run, hitting one in the shoulder.
Shouting “Allahu akbar!” repeatedly, and announcing he was a “soldier of the Islamic State,” he entered the Super U supermarket in Trebes, 60 miles southeast of Toulouse, where about 50 customers and staff were inside. Lakdim immediately killed two people in the market, and took an unreported number of hostages.
Super U’s manager, who has chosen to identify herself only as Samia, in order to avoid retaliation from the Muslim community, was in her office when she heard the first shots, followed by screams of panic.
“Call the gendarmes (police),” she told one of her employees. “There’s a terrorist in the store.”
Samia said she helped evacuate as many people as possible, while others sought safety in the store’s frozen meat locker.
During the hours-long standoff with French police, Lakdim requested the release of Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving member of the terrorists who committed the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. The French interior minister claims, however, that Abdeslam’s release wasn’t a key motive in Lakdim’s crimes, and further asserts his belief that Lakdim had not been in contact with or supported by terrorist groups.
The ISIS-linked Aamaq news agency, on the other hand, stated Lakdim was responding to its call to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against ISIs militants in Syria and Iraq. France has participated heavily in joint operations with the Russian military, the Kurds and U.S. forces to eradicate ISIS in both countries.
In the conclusion of her interview with local reporters, Samia stated, “I’m utterly devastated. This is really a tragedy. I feel deeply for the victims,” she said, adding that Beltrame “is a hero. He saved our colleague – our Julie.”
Meanwhile, millions of French citizens, including public safety service members, train conductors and airport staff have taken to the streets in wide-scale mass protests across the country. The protesters are speaking out against Emmanuel Macron’s leadership, as well as his social reform policies and the escalating migrant crisis. Participants in over 180 rallies across France have managed to shut down airports and bring the nation to a screeching halt, showing they’re committed to resisting the French president’s socialist “progress.”