Tuesday 16 October 2018

Suspect in hostage situation in France shot dead by police - report

French Prime Minister says incident seems to be a 'terrorist act'

Police are seen at the scene of a hostage situation in a supermarket in Trebes, Aude, France March 23, 2018 in this picture obtained from a social media video. LA VIE A TREBES/via REUTERS
Police are seen at the scene of a hostage situation in a supermarket in Trebes, Aude, France March 23, 2018 in this picture obtained from a social media video. LA VIE A TREBES/via REUTERS
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Three people were killed in southwestern France on Friday when a gunman held up a car, opened fire on police and then took hostages in a supermarket, screaming "Allahu Akbar".

A police union official is now telling local media that the suspect has also been shot dead.

"The hostage-taker is dead, the source said, adding that he was killed during a raid on the supermarket. Two officers were wounded, the source said.

A source at the Interior Ministry said two had died at the hostage-taking in the small town of Trebes. "It is a provisional assessment as it could unfortunately get worse. Three people are wounded, including one of them seriously," the source said.

In this image taken from BFM TV shows a police vehicle parked on a crossroad in Trebes, southern France, near the scene of an incident, Friday March 23, 2018. French counterterrorism prosecutors are taking charge of the investigation into the shooting of a police officer in southern France that has led to an apparent hostage-taking at a supermarket. (BFM TV via AP)
In this image taken from BFM TV shows a police vehicle parked on a crossroad in Trebes, southern France, near the scene of an incident, Friday March 23, 2018. French counterterrorism prosecutors are taking charge of the investigation into the shooting of a police officer in southern France that has led to an apparent hostage-taking at a supermarket. (BFM TV via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron said a hostage-taking at a supermarket in southwestern France on Friday appeared to be a terrorist attack and security forces were securing the area.

One person was killed in a carjacking and two more died after a gunman screaming "Allahu Akbar" took hostages in the town of Trebes earlier on Friday.

Later, a police union official said the attacker had also killed one person with bullet in the head in the nearby town of Carcassonne before the hostage-taking.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the incident appeared to be a terrorist act.

Eric Menassi, the mayor of Trebes, told BFM TV that the hostage-taker was now alone with one police officer in the supermarket and all other hostages were free.

The station reported that the hostage-taker has claimed allegiance to Islamic State and that he has demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam - the prime surviving suspect in the Islamic State attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.

A 45-year-old lieutenant-colonel swapped himself in exchange for one of the hostages, a source close to the investigation said later, confirming information first published by Le Figaro newspaper.

More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since 2015 by assailants who pledged allegiance to, or were inspired by, Islamic State.

First the gunman held up a car, killing one person and wounding another. Then he fired on police officers in Carcassone, wounding one officer in the shoulder before heading to Trebes about 8 km (5 miles) to the east, where two more died in the Super-U supermarket.

Menassi also told LCI TV that the man had entered the shop in Trebes screaming "Allahu Akbar, (God is greatest) I'll kill you all".

Philippe said: "All the information we have as I speak leads us to think that this would be a terrorist act."

Carole, who was shopping at the supermarket, described how people had taken refuge in a cold room.

"A man shouted and fired several times. I saw a cold room door, I asked people to come and take shelter," she told Franceinfo radio. "We were ten, and we stayed an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out the back door."

French investigators believe they have identified the hostage-taker. The man is known to the intelligence services and flagged in a database of radicalised Islamist militants, Franceinfo reported.

Police in helmets and body armour took up positions around the Super-U supermarket.

The Paris prosecutor's office said counter-terrorism prosecutors were investigating the incident but did not comment on the possible Islamic State allegiance.

Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said he expressed the concern and support of the Irish people, to President Emmanuel Macron as news of the French supermarket siege reached the EU leaders’ summit meeting in Brussels.

“President Macron briefed the leaders about what was known. I expressed concern and sympathy on behalf of the Irish people at the development,” the Taoiseach told reporters.

Mr Varadkar said there was a determination that all the EU 28 member states “must stand together” in the face of such threats. He said all governments were determined to cooperate to fight against terrorism.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry had said security forces were carrying out an operation at a supermarket in southern France. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb was on his way.

The UNSA police union also said on Twitter a police operation was underway after an individual had earlier shot at four officers in the Carcassone region, wounding one of them.

Reuters

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