Probe advances as French cop hailed as hero in supermarket siege dies



PARIS, Sebastian Kunigkeit (dpa) - A policeman who volunteered himself as a hostage in exchange for a civilian during the siege of supermarket in southern France died of his injuries, the president said on Saturday.
"By giving his life to stop the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist, he has fallen a hero," French President Emmanuel Macron said.



Arnaud Beltrame, 45, had offered to take the place of a hostage being held at the Super-U supermarket in the small town of Trebes by the 25-year-old perpetrator, named as Moroccan-born Radouane L.
Dozens of people were in the grocery store when he burst in. As the hostage negotiations unfolded, Beltrame volunteered to swap places. The officer was later shot several times, prompting the intervention of French special forces.
Beltrame's death brought the number of killed in the series of attacks, of which the hostage-taking was the culmination, to four.
Radouane L, 25, began his rampage on Friday in the southern town of Carcassonne, a popular tourist attraction for its medieval walled city, chief anti-terrorism prosecutor Francois Molins said.
The attacker shot the owner and passenger of a car, which he then stole. The owner was seriously injured and the passenger was killed.
Then he opened fire on a group of four police officers returning to their barracks from a jogging session, injuring one of them.
Soon afterwards, he arrived at the supermarket in nearby Trebes, where he shouted "Allahu akbar" and declared himself a soldier of the Islamic State extremist group.
"Saying that he was ready to die for Syria, he demanded the liberation of 'brothers,' before firing on a customer and an employee of the shop who died on the spot," Molins said.
The siege on the supermaket lasted several hours and ended with the gunman being shot dead.
Terrorism investigators have found home-made explosives and weapons in the supermarket. In addition to the bombs, a 7.65-calibre handgun and a hunting knife were found, dpa learned from judiciary sources on Saturday.
Multiple French media outlets reported that investigators found handwritten notes alluding to Islamic State during a house search on Saturday.
The contents of the notes were perplexing, with news agency AFP reporting that they resembled a last will and testament.
There was conflicting information about Beltrame's hostage swap. The French presidency spoke of the officer exchanging himself for one civilian, while the police spoke of "hostages."
Molins said that the attacker had been put on a national security watchlist in 2014 "because of his radicalization and his links to the [puritan Islamic] Salafist movement."
He had received a suspended prison sentence in 2011 for carrying a forbidden weapon and a one-month sentence in 2015 for consuming drugs and obstructing police.
Investigators said Saturday a friend of the gunman had been taken into custody, but did not elaborate on their connection. The unidentified man is a minor who was born in 2000.
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Monday, March 26th 2018
Sebastian Kunigkeit (dpa)
           


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