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Gunman Killed By Police After Killing 3, Injuring 16 In Southern France

Mar 23, 2018
Originally published on March 23, 2018 7:07 pm
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Now to the southwest of France, where a man who pledged allegiance to ISIS has killed three people. His violent rampage began when he hijacked a car. It culminated when he took staff and customers hostage at a supermarket. In addition to the three killed, 16 people were injured, some of them critically. Once they heard gunshots, police stormed the building and killed the attacker. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley walks us through what happened.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Around 11 o'clock this morning local time, a gunman stormed a supermarket in the tiny town of Trebes, population 5,000. He shot two customers and held hostages for several hours until a SWAT team stormed the market and killed him. Benoit Lecompte was in the supermarket until he escaped out a back door.

BENOIT LECOMPTE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "He had a pistol and a knife," said Lecompte, "and he was yelling and excited. He screamed, Allahu Akbar. He said he was a soldier for ISIS. And he yelled for everyone to get down on the ground." Before attacking the supermarket, the gunman hijacked a car, killing a passenger, and shot at a group of policemen on a morning jog, wounding one. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb arrived from Paris and identified the attacker.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GERARD COLLOMB: (Through interpreter) The terrorist was Redouane Lakdim. He was a 26-year-old local boy known for petty crimes and drug dealing. We were watching him because he had some radical tendencies, but we didn't think he was dangerous. And then suddenly he attacked.

BEARDSLEY: France's chief anti-terrorism prosecutor, Francois Molins, paid tribute to a paramilitary gendarme who took the place of hostages.

FRANCOIS MOLINS: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "Arnaud Beltrame went in and allowed several hostages to be freed," said Molins. "He kept his phone on so police outside could hear what was going on. But when the terrorist began shooting the colonel, that's when the SWAT forces went in. Tonight he is fighting for his life in the hospital."

MOLINS: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: A former member of the French police SWAT team, Daniel Cerdan, explained how the police raid unfolded.

DANIEL CERDAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "In every case, we try to avoid a bloodbath," he said. "So we bring out people who can convince the hostage-taker to give up the fight." Cerdan said Lakdim's mother and two sisters came out to help negotiate, but they were unable to persuade him to give himself up.

CERDAN: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: French President Emmanuel Macron said France was still under the threat of terrorism even though it had changed.

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PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) We're no longer in the situation of two or three years ago when we were facing attacks planned and led from the Iraq-Syrian war zone. That's the difference between war terrorism and today's terrorism, which is mostly dangerous individuals.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: French news channels said Lakdim was born in Morocco but a French citizen. Neighbors described his family as quiet and hardworking and said there were no indications the son was dangerous before today's tragic events. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEBASTIEN TELLIER'S "LA RITOURNELLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.