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French supermarket attack: 'Hero' policeman honoured


IANS Paris
A French police officer who died after he offered himself in exchange for a hostage in a supemarket siege was honoured in Paris on Wednesday.
Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was one of four victims of the shooting spree in the Super U supermarket in southern town of Trebes on Friday.
An armed man took hostages and barricaded himself in the supermarket, leading to a tense stand-off with police in which four people were killed.
Col. Beltrame exchanged places with one of the hostages and was subsequently shot, a sacrifice that saw him praised by President Emmanuel Macron, who later in the day will award him France's highest accolade Legion d'Honneur, the BBC reported.
Macron said he "fell as a hero" after showing "exceptional courage and selflessness".
Crowds watched in the rain as the officer's coffin was taken in procession through the streets of Paris to Les Invalides, where the President will deliver an eulogy in front of dozens of Col. Beltrame's friends, family and colleagues.
Earlier, a minute's silence was observed in all police stations across France and flags were lowered to half-mast on public buildings.
After the ceremony, Col. Beltrame's coffin will be taken back to Carcassone for his funeral. The officer's actions helped bring an end to the siege in the supermarket by 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim.
Lakdim was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the key surviving suspect in the November 2015 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people.
The gunman had been on an extremist watch list and was known to authorities as a petty criminal, but intelligence services had determined he did not pose a threat. He was shot dead by police.
Sixteen people were injured, two seriously, in what was the worst jihadist attack under Macron's presidency.
Lakdim's girlfriend is reportedly a convert to Islam who has been known to security services for at least a year. On Tuesday, she was placed under formal investigation accused of "associating with terrorists preparing attacks" and remains in police custody.
Another person, a 17-year-old friend of the gunman, was released on Monday after being questioned.

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First Published: Mar 28 2018 | 4:46 PM IST

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