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Heroic French Police Officer Dies

A French police officer who offered himself up to an Islamic extremis gunman who went on a deadly rampage in southern France in exchange for one of the female hostages on Friday, has died. The gunman killed three people and wounded 16 others when he stole a car, fired at police officers and took hostages in what authorities are treating as a terrorist attack. Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said the officer, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was among the first officers to respond to the attack Friday at the supermarket in the French town of Trees. When the officer went inside the supermarket, shots were fired.

The lieutenant colonel had his phone on, so police could hear his interactions with the gunman. As soon as they heard gunfire, police went in. The gunman was killed and the officer, identified by a source close to the investigation as Arnaud Beltrame, was seriously wounded. Investigators quickly searched the home of the attacker, Redouane Lakdim , 25 , and found what a judicial official said were notes “ that alluded to the Islamic State and appeared like a last testament .” They also found a computer and telephone that will be examined for information . The official wasn ’ t authorized to speak publicly amid an investigation .

Investigators also found three homemade explosive devices , a handgun and a hunting knife inside the supermarket , the official said. The weapons suggested his intent to do further damage .

Two people were detained for alleged links to a terrorist enterprise , one woman close to Lakdim and a 17 – year – old male friend of his , Paris prosecutor ’s office said.The Interior Ministry identified the gunman as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, who was known to authorities for minor crimes including drug offenses, Collomb said. An investigation has been opened into murder and attempted murder. Three months ago Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame helped organize a drill for his fellow gendarmes that simulated a terrorist attack on a supermarket. A video of the exercise showed police taking on assailants armed with paintball guns.

“We want to be as close as possible to real conditions, so there’s no pre-established scenario,” the officer told a local newspaper at the time.

Beltrame’s death, announced by French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb, raises the toll to four. The gunman was also killed, and 15 people were injured in the attack. French President Emmanuel Macron said investigators will focus on establishing how the gunman, identified by prosecutors as Moroccan-born Redouane Lakdim, got his weapon and how he became radicalized.

The IS-linked Aamaq news agency said the attacker was responding to the group’s calls to target countries in the U.S.-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against IS militants in Syria and Iraq since 2014. France has been repeatedly targeted because of its participation. France has been on high alert since a series of extremist attacks in 2015 and 2016 that killed more than 200 people.

“ Arnaud Beltrame died in the service of the nation to which he had already given so much ,” French President Emmanuel Macron said . “ In giving his life to end the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist , he fell as a hero.”

French police and soldiers have been a prime target of attacks by extremists, with 10 killed in recent years, including Beltrame. Dozens of others have been wounded .

According to Macron’s statement , Beltrame also served as a member of the presidential guard and in 2012 earned one of France’ s highest honors, the Order of Merit. He was married with no children.

Cedric Beltrame told RTL radio Saturday that his brother died “ a hero.”

“He was well aware he had almost no chance. He was very aware of what he was doing ,” Cedric Beltrame said .

Beltrame ’ s mother told RTL radio that for her son, “to defend the homeland” was “his reason to live.”

“He would have said to me, ‘I’m doing my job, Mom,’ nothing more,’” she said. People were placing flowers in front of the Gendarmerie headquarters in the French medieval city of Carcassone to pay tribute to Beltrame. Flags at all gendarmeries were ordered to fly at half-staff. Mayor Eric Menassi of Trebes, a town of 6,000, said people there were forever marked. “There will be a before and an after … yesterday we were able to measure how much radicalism can affect anyone, ” he said.

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