French police 'hero' who swapped himself for a hostage dies

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The officer who volunteered to take the place of a female hostage was identified as Col. Arnaud Beltrame.

The national gendarmerie said its flags would fly at half-mast on Saturday in tribute to the slain officer, while a white rose hung on the door of his own base in Carcassonne.

At a press conference in Trebes, Collomb said the suspect first hijacked a car in the southern city of Carcassonne before heading to Trebes.

The radical Islamist gunman, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim, was shot dead as police brought the siege to an end.

Three people were killed in southwestern France on Friday when a gunman held up a car, opened fire on police and then took hostages in a supermarket.

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, called Mr Beltrame a hero.

Le Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame nous a quittés.

A string of deadly gun and knife attacks has followed, and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said dozens of others have been thwarted by police as the government stepped up anti-terror measures.

In July 2016, in another attack claimed by IS, a man drove a truck through revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera resort of Nice, killing 84 people.

Collomb said the gunman, Radouane Lakdim, whom security sources said had Moroccan nationality, had been monitored on suspicion of having been radicalised but had ultimately been deemed not to pose a threat.

Speaking to the BBC, Col Arnaud's cousin Florence Nicolic described the officer as a person who was "so good at his job".

Lakdim lived in an apartment in Carcassonne with his parents and several sisters.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said all information suggested it "seems to be a terrorist act". Officers rushed the building as soon as they heard gunfire.

"His leadership skills, his willingness, his unfailing commitment were appreciated by everyone, especially in the development of counterterrorism capacity in the Aude police force", Macron said.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on March 23, 2018 shows the lights of the Eiffel Tower as they are dimmed at midnight, in Paris to honor victims killed at a supermarket in southwest France by a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State.

Beltrame's brother, Cedric Beltrame, told RTL radio Saturday his sibling died "a hero".

It is believed that he demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, known to be the only surviving member of the terrorist commando group that carried out a series of attacks in Paris back in November 2015.

Swat teams from neighbouring areas were sent to provide support to local police and there are helicopters flying over the area above the supermarket.

"I prayed a lot hoping there'd be a miracle, that they'd be able to save him", she said, on the brink of tears. The police had him signed for drug trafficking and common crime, and although he had him on radar because of his possible radicalization, he had not detected that he could go into action. The unidentified male, born in 2000, was described as a friend of Lakdim's.

The family's apartment was raided by police on Friday afternoon.

Married with no children, Beltrame had served in the French military police and received a number of awards for bravery.

The Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency said the attacker was responding to the group's calls to target countries in the U.S. -led coalition.

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