PARIS — A suspected terrorist set off a chain of chaotic events Friday, stealing a car, opening fire at police and then taking hostages at a supermarket before he was fatally shot, authorities in southern France said. Three others were killed and 16 wounded in the rampage — the latest to put France on edge after a string of deadly terrorist attacks in recent years.
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.
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French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb identified the suspect as Redouane Lakdim, a 26-year-old who he said acted alone.
"He was known for petty crimes," Collomb told reporters after an hours-long standoff. "We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalization."
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called the incident "a terrorist act," and the Paris prosecutors' office said an anti-terrorism investigation had been opened.
Following a meeting at the interior ministry, French President Emmanuel Macron said investigators would determine how the weapon was obtained and how Lakdim appeared to be radicalized.
More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since 2015 by assailants who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State or were inspired by the group. ISIS claimed responsibility for Friday's attack but offered no details.
The killings began at 10:30 a.m. local time (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 said.
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Officers then shot and killed Lakdim after storming the supermarket, Collomb said.
Collomb hailed an "act of heroism" by a lieutenant-colonel in the national police force who exchanged places with a female hostage inside the supermarket. The lieutenant-colonel was seriously injured.
A shopper who gave her name as Carole told a local radio station that 10 people had sought refuge from the shooter in the supermarket.
"A man shouted and fired several times. I saw a cold-room door, I asked people to come and take shelter," she told Franceinfo. "We stayed an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out the back door."
Trèbes is about 60 miles from Artigat, the small town where the Syrian-French cleric Olivier Corel founded an Islamist movement suspected of inspiring previous terror attacks in France.
Corel has been investigated before, including after Mohamed Merah fatally shot Jewish teachers and students as well as French soldiers in March 2012, but has never been convicted. He has always denied any involvement in terrorism.
Nancy Ing reported from Paris, and Alastair Jamieson and Saphora Smith reported from London.