Monday 22 October 2018

Macron leads mourners in state funeral for hero of terror siege

French President Emmanuel Macron leans at the coffin of Lt Co. Arnaud Beltrame after he was posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour yesterday at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. Photo Christophe Ena:AP
French President Emmanuel Macron leans at the coffin of Lt Co. Arnaud Beltrame after he was posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour yesterday at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. Photo Christophe Ena:AP

Thomas Adamson

The slain hero of last week's extremist attack in southern France was honoured in an elaborate day-long national homage led by President Emmanuel Macron yesterday.

The tribute came as questions were raised about possible failures by French counter- terrorism officials in tracking the gunman, who was on a radicalisation watch-list before he went on a rampage last Friday.

The coffin of Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame was driven through morning drizzle in a procession across Paris from the Pantheon to the Hôtel des Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon. Mr Macron delivered a patriotic public eulogy calling for national solidarity after last week's attack, which together with myriad other extremist attacks on French soil have claimed more than 200 lives since 2015.

Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame. Photo: AP
Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame. Photo: AP

Beltrame symbolised "the spirit of French resistance," Mr Macron said. Beltrame died of his wounds hours after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket near the city of Carcassonne.

"We will prevail thanks to the resilience of the French. We will win by the cohesion of a united nation," added Mr Macron.

After inspecting troops at the monument as a military band played a stirring rendition of the French national anthem, Mr Macron posthumously awarded Beltrame the Légion d'honneur, France's highest award.

Two former presidents, François Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, also attended.

The tribute provided a national focal point for grief, even as questions were growing about possible mistakes made by the French security services regarding Beltrame's killer, Redouane Lakdim.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb confirmed French security services were poised to reduce the surveillance on Lakdim - who had been on a radicalisation watch list since 2014 - ahead of the attack.

But Mr Collomb maintained there were no "dysfunctions" in the tracking of Lakdim, who killed three other people before he was shot dead by police.

Mr Collomb said "ultimately no-one thought that there would be a hasty attack" by Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality.

Irish Independent

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