French police hero dies

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Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame died of wounds

A French police officer, who swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege on Friday, has died.

Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, aged 45, “fell as a hero” and showed “exceptional courage”, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

The gendarme helped bring an end to a gunman’s shooting spree that killed three in southern France.

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

Announcing the police officer’s death on Twitter, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said: “He died for his country. France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice.”

Mr Macron had revealed that Lt-Col Beltrame had suffered serious injuries and was fighting for his life in hospital.

Sixteen people were injured, two seriously, in what Mr Macron called an act of “Islamist terrorism”.

Lakdim was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

One person, believed to be Lakdim’s partner, has been arrested in connection with the shootings.

 ‘Friday siege’
The violence began on Friday morning in Carcassonne, where Lakdim hijacked a car. He killed a passenger, whose body was later found hidden in a bush and injured the driver.

He then shot at a group of policemen who were out jogging, wounding one of them.

Lakdim is then believed to have driven a short distance to the small town of Trèbes, where he stormed into the Super-U supermarket, shouting, “I am a soldier of Daesh [Islamic State]!”

He killed two people, a customer and a store worker, before seizing others as hostages.

 ‘The Swap’
Mr Collomb told reporters on Friday that police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield.

It was at this point, he said, that Lt-Col Beltrame had volunteered to swap himself for her.

As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed but Lt-Col Beltrame was injured.

After the announcement of his death early on Saturday, France’s Gendarmerie Nationale, a police force part of the military, honoured its fallen “comrade”, saying Lt-Col Beltrame “gave his life for the freedom of the hostages”.

BBC/Sammie