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France to pay national tribute to officer killed in hostage swop

PARIS France will pay a national tribute to a security officer who died from gunshot wounds after voluntarily taking the place of a female hostage during a supermarket siege by an Islamist militant, President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 44, who once served in Iraq, was raced to hospital fighting for his life after being shot by the gunman during the siege at the Super U store in the south-western town of Trebes, but he later died.

His actions were described as heroic by politicians across the political spectrum.

"He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous outfit of a jihadist terrorist," Mr Macron said in a statement .

France would organise a national tribute in Lt-Col Beltrame's honour, the president's office announced after he met with members of the government and officials involved in the attack investigation.

The attacker was identified by authorities as Redouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old Moroccan-born French national from the city of Carcassonne, not far from Trebes, the tranquil town of about 5,000 people where he struck on Friday.

Lakdim was known to authorities for drug-dealing and other petty crimes. He was also under surveillance by security services in 2016 to 2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Friday.

The attacker's rampage began when he shot the occupant of a car he stole and fired on a group of police joggers, wounding one.

He then headed to a supermarket where he killed two people, an employee and a client, bringing Friday's toll to three dead and 16 injured, according to a government readout.

Lt-Col Beltrame's death took the number killed to four.

He was part of a team of gendarmes who were among the first to arrive at the supermarket scene.

Most of the people in the shop escaped after hiding in a cold storage room and then fleeing through an emergency exit.

He offered to trade places with a hostage Lakdim was still holding, and he took her place and left his mobile phone on a table, line open.

When shots rang out, elite police stormed the building to kill the assailant. Sources said Lt-Col Beltrame was shot three times. - REUTERS

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