The hostage situation in southwestern France has come to an end after the gunman killed three people and was then killed by police officers. The gunman, identified to reporters by Interior Minister Gérad Collomb as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, entered the Super U in Trébes, France after hijacking a car and began shooting. Witnesses say he shouted “God is great” in Arabic and said he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State. Lakdim was from the neighboring city of Carcassonne and had a reputation as a petty criminal and drug dealer.
According to Collomb, Lakdim had “abruptly taken action” without any clear planning. “We had monitored him,” said Collomb, “and we believed that he was not radicalized.” Collomb also stated that Lakdim acted alone.
Retired policeman Christian Guibbert was shopping for groceries with his wife and sister-in-law when the incident occurred; he escaped through an emergency exit. Guibbert told French media that he heard gunshots and saw a “very agitated” man armed with a handgun and knife.
“He was yelling threats at people, ‘everybody on the ground,'” said Mr. Guibbert. “‘Allahu akbarm’ yes, he yelled that several times.” Mr. Guibbert then hid his family and other customers in a meat locker, called the police and escaped through an exit.
According to a bulletin issued by Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Lakdim was described as a “soldier of the Islamic State” and the bulletin claimed the attack was a response to the group’s call to action to target enemies. The language suggests Lakdim was inspired by the Islamic State but not directed by it.
According to Collomb, Lakdim first hijacked a car, killing one person and injuring another. He then came into contact with a group of police officers in Carcassonne. He shot at them, wounding one. He then drove to the supermarket and fired shots as he entered, killing two people and taking one hostage.
A 45-year-old police officer voluntarily traded places with the female hostage. The police officer, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame with France’s gendarmerie, left his phone open on a table, allowing police outside to listen to the conflict.
More gunshots were heard and the police stormed the store, fatally shooting Lakdim. According to Collomb, the lieutenant colonel was “seriously wounded” in an “act of heroism.”
President Emmanuel Macron responded to the attack from a news conference in Brussels where he is attending a European Union summit meeting, saying, “We believe that it is indeed a terrorist attack.”
Several French reporters claim that Lakdim was demanding the release of Mr. Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Islamic State group that has killed 130 in and around Paris in a series of attacks since November 2015. Collomb did not confirm these reports, saying that Lakdim called for the “liberation of prisoners.”
Beltrame, who bravely swapped places with the hostage, ended up succumbing to his wounds on Saturday, after being shot in the neck by the gunman, CNN reports.
“Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame died in the service of the nation to which he had already contributed so much,” Macron said in a statement. “By giving his life to end the murderous escapade of a jihadist terrorist, he died a hero.”
This is the first attack since the lifting of the state of emergency in France that was put in place after the November 2015 terrorist attacks. There have been no large scale attacks since one in Nice in July 2016, though several small attacks on individuals have taken place. This is also the first attack since the passing of the counterterrorism law that makes permanent some emergency measures.