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French police officer who traded places with hostage during terror attack dies

"France will never forget his heroism, bravery and sacrifice," the country's interior minister said.
by Phil Helsel and Associated Press /  / Updated 
Image: A general view shows gendarmes and police officers at a supermarket after a hostage situation in Trebes
Gendarmes and police officers at a supermarket after a hostage situation in Trebes, France, on March 23, 2018.REGIS DUVIGNAU / Reuters

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A French police officer who volunteered to trade places with a hostage during a terror attack involving a standoff in a supermarket has died of his injuries, France's interior minister said Saturday local time.

French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said on Twitter Saturday morning that the lieutenant colonel who was seriously injured, Arnaud Beltrame, died.

"France will never forget his heroism, bravery and sacrifice," Collomb said in the tweet.

In a statement released later Saturday morning, a spokesperson for French President Emmanuel Macron said that Beltrame "died in the service of the nation, to which he had already brought so much. By giving his life to put an end to the murderous armed jihadist terrorist, he has fallen as a hero."

Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins has said that a lieutenant colonel offered to trade places with a hostage. The officer managed to surreptitiously leave his cellphone on so that police outside could hear what was going on inside the supermarket, the Associated Press reported.

The 25-year-old suspected attacker stole a car, opened fire at police and then took hostages before he was fatally shot on Friday, authorities said. Three other people were killed and more than a dozen others were wounded in the attack, according to officials. Beltrame's death raises the total of those killed in the attack to four.

Police overpowered the assailant at a Super U store in Trèbes, about 8 miles southeast of Carcassonne and 60 miles north of the Spanish border.

Collomb previously identified the slain suspect as Redouane Lakdim, who he said acted alone.

The Paris Prosecutor's office confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that "an individual was placed in custody overnight for association with a terrorist criminal." Another individual was arrested on Friday in connection to the case. They will be held and questioned for up to four days, when investigators will decide whether they should be released or charged.

The killings began at around 10:30 a.m. local time on Friday (5:30 a.m. ET), when police say Lakdim attacked two people and stole a car, leaving the passenger dead and the driver injured.

As he drove away, Lakdim came across four riot police officers who were out jogging. He fired at them, wounding one in the shoulder, before taking hostages in a nearby grocery store, where he killed two more people, police have said.

Officers then shot and killed Lakdim after storming the supermarket, Collomb said earlier.

Image: Gunman takes hostages in Trebes supermarket
Armed gendarmes stand outside the Super U after their assault Friday on the supermarket where a gunman took hostages in Trebes, southern France.Guillaume Horcajuelo / EPA

Molins said at a press conference Friday that the attacker entered the supermarket shouting "Allahu akbar" and saying that he was a soldier of the Islamic State and prepared to die. A witness said he had a gun in one hand and a knife in the other when he entered the store. Some hid in a meat locker.

The Islamic State-affiliated media unit A’maq released a statement on the Telegram app claiming that the attacker was a soldier of the terror group but provided no evidence to back up the group’s claim, according to security consulting firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence.

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