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EPA

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Lt-Col Beltrame suffered fatal injuries after volunteering to trade places with a female hostage

A French police officer who swapped himself for a hostage in a supermarket siege on Friday has died, officials say.

Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, 44, “fell as a hero” and showed “exceptional courage”, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

The gendarme helped bring an end to a gunman’s shooting spree that killed three in southern France.

The radical Islamist gunman, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim, was shot dead as police brought the siege to an end.

Col Beltrame’s death was announced on Twitter by French Interior Minister Gérard Collomb.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Col Beltrame’s brother, Cedric, said Arnaud’s actions were “beyond the call of duty”.

“He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would,” he said.

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Reuters

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The supermarket was sealed off by police as the siege unfolded

Earlier, Mr Macron had revealed that Col Beltrame suffered serious injuries and was fighting for his life in hospital.

Sixteen people were injured, two seriously, in what Mr Macron called an act of “Islamist terrorism”.

Lakdim was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Prosecutors are reportedly questioning two people in connection with the attacks, one of whom is thought to be the gunman’s partner while the other is believed to be a friend.

What led up to Friday’s siege?

The violence began on Friday morning in Carcassonne, where Lakdim hijacked a car. He killed a passenger – whose body was later found hidden in a bush – and injured the driver.

He then shot at a group of policemen who were out jogging, wounding one of them.

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Media captionEye-witness says French hostage-taker ran after him

Lakdim is then believed to have driven a short distance to the small town of Trèbes, where he stormed into the Super-U supermarket, shouting, “I am a soldier of Daesh [Islamic State]!”

He killed two people – a customer and a store worker – before seizing others as hostages.

At what point was the officer wounded?

Mr Collomb told reporters on Friday that police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield.

It was at this point, he said, that Col Beltrame had volunteered to swap himself for her.

As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed and Col Beltrame was mortally wounded.

After the announcement of his death early on Saturday, France’s Gendarmerie Nationale – a police force part of the military – honoured its fallen “comrade”, saying Col Beltrame “gave his life for the freedom of the hostages”.

What do we know about Redouane Lakdim?

Lakdim, was born in April 1992 in Morocco and had French nationality. He was known to French intelligence services.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said Lakdim had been on an extremist watch-list due to “his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement”, a hardline offshoot of Sunni Islam. However, subsequent investigations by intelligence services had not turned up any signs he would act, he said.

In 2011, Lakdim was found guilty of carrying a prohibited weapon and in 2015 he was convicted for drug use and refusing a court order, Mr Molins said.

Earlier, Mr Collomb said that though Lakdim had been known to authorities as a petty criminal, they “did not think he had been radicalised”.

Lakdim lived in an apartment in Carcassonne with his parents and several sisters. A neighbour saw him taking one of his sisters to school on Friday morning.

The family’s apartment was raided by police on Friday afternoon.

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AFP

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Redouane Lakdim was known to the French intelligence services



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