- Gunman shot dead after taking hostages in Trebes, France
- Attacker named as petty criminal Redouane Lakdim, 26
- At least two people killed in store and dozen more wounded
- Attacker also shot a driver in the head and stole his car
- Gunman 'shouted Allahu Akbar' and 'said he supported Isil'
- Military officer, 45, dies in hospital after swapping himself for hostage
A French policeman shot by an Islamist gunman when he swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege has died.
Arnaud Beltrame, a lieutenant-colonel in the gendarmerie, was hailed a hero after the attacker - who killed four people in a shooting spree - was shot dead by police.
Mr Beltrame was among the officers who rushed to the scene when the assailant stormed the store in the southwest town of Trèbes, firing on shoppers and staff before taking a hostage.
Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, announced early on Saturday that Mr Beltrame had passed away after he was reportedly hit by several bullets and one injury to the throat.
"Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame has left us. France will never forget his heroism, his bravery, his sacrifice."
In an interview in December with the local Independent newspaper, Mr Beltrame said he had taken part in an attack simulation in Carcassonne that centred around a mass attack in a supermarket.
"A mass killing took place in a supermarket. This is the only information that was given to the police," he was quoted by the newspaper as saying, describing the simulation scenario. "We want to be closer to real conditions, so there is no pre-established scenario".
Emmanuel Macron, the French President, called Mr Beltrame a hero.
"He saved lives and honoured his colleagues and his country," President Macron said of the officer.
The gunman was identified as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, a petty criminal of Moroccan origin who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
He opened fire on passengers in a car, killing one of them, then shoot dead another two people at the supermarket.
The gunman was eventually killed in the police assault after a standoff of more than three hours.
He reportedly shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he burst into the Super U store on the outskirts of the picturesque medieval town of around 5,000 inhabitants.
Eyewitnesses told French media that Lakdim demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the 2015 Paris jihadist attacks that killed 130 people, and said he was taking revenge for the international coalition bombing Isil targets in Syria.
"He was known by the police for petty crimes, we had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised," Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters at the scene in Trebes.
Lakdim was described by a neighbour as a "pleasant young man" who lived with his parents and sisters in a flat in Carcassonne, taking the youngest children to school every day.
The incident in Trèbes came as France is still on high alert after suffering a string of terror attacks since January 2015.
Lakdim began his shooting spree in his home town, whose huge medieval castle makes it a tourist hotspot, around 10 am local time when he hijacked a car, shooting dead a passenger and seriously injuring its driver.
Then he fired at a group of CRS riot policemen who were jogging near the castle in Carcassonne and wounded one of them.
The attacker then drove off towards Trèbes, about five miles away, where he dumped the hijacked vehicle in the car park of a supermarket before storming into the Super U store, and shooting dead a shop worker and a customer.
Other customers and staff fled or hid, with one group hiding themselves in the supermarket's cold store Christian Guibbert was one of them.
He described how he heard gunshots when he arrived at the supermarket with his wife and sister-in-law, who hid in the cold room while he called police.
He saw the attacker holding a handgun and a knife screaming "Allahu Akbar" and ordering people to get on the ground. "At one point he saw me and took after me with his knife," Mr Guibbert told Reuters.
"Then I looked back and he wasn't there any more and I slipped out of an emergency exit.”
Police arrived shortly after the start of the siege at around 11am.
"They managed to get some of the people out," said Interior Minister Collomb, but the attacker kept one woman hostage to use as a human shield.
It was then that Mr Beltrame, the 45-year-old lieutenant-colonel, offered to take the woman's place and remained holed up with Lakdim while negotiations to end the standoff continued.
The officer "left his telephone on the table", switched on, to allow police surrounding the building in to listen in, said Mr Collomb.
"When we heard shots the GIGN (an elite police force) intervened," the minister said. A team of about a dozen officers entered the building and quickly shot dead the attacker. 'We got him, we got him!," one police officer shouted as he re-emerged from the building, according to an eyewitness account by a journalist from the local newspaper La Depeche.
An officer from the GIGN team was also hurt in the operation to neutralise the gunman.
Theresa May: We stand in solidarity with our friends and allies in France
After the "cowardly" attacks, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said Britain stands "in solidarity with our friends and allies in France, just as they always stand with us":
PM: My thoughts are with the victims of the cowardly attacks in Trèbes and Carcassonne. We stand in solidarity with our friends and allies in France, just as they always stand with us.— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 23, 2018
Elite officer who swapped places with hostage kept phone on so colleagues could hear conversation with attacker
The unnamed police officer who volunteered to swap his place with a hostage managed to leave his phone on so his colleagues outside could hear his conversation with the attacker.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb praised the "heroism" of the 45-year-old lieutenant-colonel, who suffered a bullet wound during the assault in which the hostage-taker was shot dead by police and is seriously injured.
Mr Collomb said he managed to leave his mobile phone switched on after the swap, establishing a contact with officers outside the supermarket in the stand-off.
Mr Collomb said elite French forces stormed the market and killed the gunman after hearing gunshots inside. He did not say how or when the police officer was injured.
France Info radio reported that police at first negotiated with the attacker and persuaded him to agree to swap an unspecified number of hostages - perhaps all of them - for an officer from the GIGN unit present at the scene.
The GIGN is an elite tactical unit of the Gendarmerie whose operations include hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, and the protection of top government officials.
Isil claims responsibility for France attack
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, but gave no evidence for the claim.
Police officer who swapped himself for hostage suffered bullet wound
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has confirmed that a gendarme who offered himself in exchange for hostages held in the supermarket was injured.
He said that the lieutenant-colonel suffered a bullet wound during the assault in which the hostage taker was shot dead by police.
Attacker named as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim
The man who killed at least three people in attacks in southern France was a 26-year old known for petty crimes and possession of drugs, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters, adding that he acted alone.
Collomb named the attacker as Redouane Lakdim and said he was from nearby Carcassonne, where the attacks started.
"He was known for petty crimes. We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalisation," Collomb said.
Attacker was 'radicalised petty criminal under surveillance'
The suspect in a supermarket hostage-taking in southern France who killed three people is believed to have acted alone, the French interior minister has said.
He described the unnamed attacker as a "radicalised petty criminal under surveillance". Although he was known to authorities, he was "not considered an Islamist threat", the minister added.
Suspect was 'pleasant young man who... always had a nice word to say'
Police have raided the home in Carcassonne of the man suspected of carrying out the supermarket attack in Trebes, Le Parisien newspaper reported. It said police had also raided the homes of his associates and relatives.
One neighbour told the newspaper the suspect was a pleasant young man who was "calm, friendly, and always had a nice word to say."
He reportedly lived in an apartment block with his parents and sisters, and would take the youngest child to school every day.
'We got him!' shouts police officer after attacker is shot dead
A police officer emerged from the supermarket where the hostage-taker was holed up and shouted: "We got him, we got him!"
A journalist from the local La Depeche newspaper described the scene as police moved in to put an end to the incident.
They wrote: "I saw a dozen police from the GIGN (an elite police corps specialised in hostage and terror situations) go inside the Super U supermarket.
"From the outside you couldn't hear any shots being fired. Very quickly after this assault ambulances and a helicopter arrived at the car park.
"Then security forces sent sniffer dogs into the building. I saw a police officer come out, shouting: 'We got him, we got him!"
President Emmanuel Macron: 'All evidence suggests' this is terror attack
French President Emmanuel Macron said "all evidence suggests" the shootings in southern France are a terrorist attack.
Speaking in Brussels, where he is attending an EU summit, Macron offered his "full support" to everyone involving in the situation.
Military officer swapped himself for supermarket hostage
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb confirmed that French police killed the gunman who was holed up in the Super U store.
It also emerged that a French military officer took the place of a supermarket hostage.
The 45-year old lieutenant-colonel swapped himself in exchange of one of the hostages, a source close to the investigation said.
Breaking: Police shoot supermarket attacker dead
The suspect in the hostage-taking situation has been shot dead by police, a police union official confirmed.
Gunman shot motorist in head before stealing car to drive to supermarket
Police have found a body in bushes in Carcassonne and another man there who suffered bullet wounds is being treated in hospital, local media reported.
The gunman is believed to have shot a motorist in the head - and also injured the passenger - before stealing the car to drive to the Trebes supermarket.
Bruno Bartocetti, the regional representative of the SGP police union, said the Carcassonne attacker is believed to the same person who has taken hostages in Trebes.
Local media report that the Trebes attacker is a Moroccan man who lived in Carcassonne.
Customers escape after hiding in freezer room for an hour
One woman who was shopping in the Trebes supermarket when the attacker burst in said she and other customers hid in a freezer room for an hour before managing to escape.
"A man started shouting and fired a gun several times," the shopper, who was not named, told France Info radio.
"I saw a door into a freezer room and I told other people around me to come and take refuge there. There were ten of us and we stayed there for an hour.
"There were more shots and we eventually got out through an emergency exit at the back."
Another witness said the attacker was armed with a gun, knives and a hand grenade.
Attack comes after string of atrocities in France
The attacker holed up in the supermarket in Trebes has reportedly claimed allegiance to Isil. If that is confirmed, the incident would be the first deadly jihadist attack in France since last October, when two young women were stabbed to death outside the main railway station in Marseille.
The incident in Trebes, a picturesque medieval town of around 5,000 inhabitants, come as France is still on high alert after suffering a string of terror attacks since January 2015, when a gun attack by radical Islamists on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killed 12 people.
The deadliest assault came in November the same year, when attackers claiming allegiance to Isil killed 130 people in bombings and shootings at bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert venue and the national stadium.
The following July, in another attack claimed by Isil, a man drove a truck through revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera resort of Nice, killing 84 people.
The government put the country under a state of emergency after the Paris attacks.
This was was finally lifted in October last year, but soldiers continue to patrol major tourist sites and transport hubs.
Car used by man in police shooting found at supermarket - police sources
The car of the man who fired at riot police near Carcassonne has been found in the car park of the supermarket where an armed man has holed up after reportedly killing at least one person, AFP has reported citing police sources.
This would suggest that - as suspected - the two attacks were carried out by the same man.
Police confirm at least two people killed in hostage-taking
French police have confirmed that two people have been killed and about a dozen wounded in the supermarket hostage-taking.
However, the casualty toll is likely to rise, the regional head of the gendarmes said. "We are unfortunately expecting to find more victims," he told Sud-Ouest newspaper.
A spokesman with the national police service said that it is unclear whether there are still hostages inside the store. The spokesman said a police operation to apprehend the assailant is still under way.
Attacker reported to be Moroccan national known to French intelligence services
The attacker is a Moroccan national known to France's intelligence services, according to La Depeche, a regional newspaper.
The authorities have so far given no details about the man's identity.
Hostage-taker 'demanding release of Salah Abdeslam'
A French TV station reports that the hostage-taker has demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Isil cell that attacked Paris in November 2015 and killed 130 people.
He is currently in a prison near Paris awaiting trial for those attacks.
French PM: We believe this is a terrorist act
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said: "The information which we currently have to hand makes us believe that this is a terrorist act."
He said he will cut short a visit to the eastern town of Mulhouse and return to Paris to monitor the situation in Trebes and will "remain in constant contact with the president," Emmanuel Macron, who is in Brussels today for a European Council meeting.
Meanwhile, around 50 people who fled the supermarket have taken refuge in a Peugeot garage next to the store.
Attacker shouted Allahu Akbar as he burst into store - witness
The hostage-taker has killed at least one person inside the supermarket, a police union official said, reports Rory Mulholland.
The hostage-taking began at 11am local time when a man burst into the supermarket and fired shots, the local prosecutor’s office said. Local police said they believed one or two people were hit hit by the gunfire.
One witness said the attacker had shouted Allahu Akbar as he burst into the store.
Attacker wanted to 'take revenge for Syria'
The attacker, who is believed to be in his 30s, has one or more grenades and said that he wanted to "take revenge for Syria", sources told the Dépêche du Midi newspaper.
Local media said it was the same man who shot the police officers and then took refuge in the supermarket, but this has not been confirmed.
Two confirmed injured in supermarket hostage-taking
The Mayor of Trebes has told BFM TV that there are at least two people injured in the supermarket-hostage situation.
Policeman injured after man opens fire on officers
A man opened fire on four French police officers before fleeing the scene in Carcassonne. He is reported to have fired five shots.
One police officer was injured after he was shot in the shoulder. He is being treated in hospital.
It has not yet been confirmed if this incident is linked to the hostage-taking in nearby Trebes.
Counter-terror investigation launched into hostage-taking
Counter-terrorism prosecutors are investigating the incident, a source in Paris said.
People urged to avoid area around supermarket
The French Interior Ministry said on its Twitter account Friday that police and rescue operations were the priority.
Authorities in the Aude region are warning people to avoid the area around the supermarket.