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Thursday 24 May 2018

French policeman killed in extremist attack honoured in national tribute

The coffin of Arnaud Beltrame was driven across Paris from the Pantheon to the Hotel des Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon.

Soldiers carry the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)
Soldiers carry the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

By Thomas Adamson, Associated Press

The policeman killed in last week’s extremist attack in southern France has been honoured in an elaborate, daylong national homage led by French President Emmanuel Macron.

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 on Friday.

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France Shooting

The coffin of Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame was driven through the morning drizzle in a procession across Paris from the Pantheon to the Hotel 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 over 200 lives since 2015.

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A convoy of French Republican Guards escorting the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame arrive at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

Mr Beltrame symbolised “the spirit of French resistance”, Mr Macron said.

The officer died of his wounds on Saturday morning, hours after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket near the city of Carcassonne.

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Soldiers carry the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame in the courtyard of the Hotel des Invalides (Christophe Ena/AP)

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

After inspecting troops at the monument as a military band played a stirring rendition of the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, Mr Macron posthumously awarded Mr Beltrame the Legion of Honour, France’s highest award.

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Former French presidents Francois Hollande, left, and Nicolas Sarkozy wait prior to the national ceremony for Arnaud Beltrame (Christophe Ena/AP)

Two former presidents, Francois 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 Mr Beltrame’s killer, Redouane Lakdim.

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French President Emmanuel Macron posthumously awards the Legion of Honour to Arnaud Beltrame (Christophe Ena/AP)

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

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

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People applaud as the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame leaves the Pantheon in Paris (Etienne Laurent, Pool via AP)

Speaking on France Inter, he said “ultimately no one thought that there would be a hasty attack” by Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality.

Moroccan authorities have also questioned France’s handling of Lakdim’s case.

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French Republican Guards and cadets from the joint-army military school carry the coffin of Arnaud Beltrame (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

The chief of a counter-terrorism agency known as Morocco’s FBI said on Tuesday that France never alerted his country about Lakdim’s radical behaviour — calling the absence of contact “a misunderstanding”.

Since the attack, the agency — created three years ago to consolidate counter-terrorism efforts — has been investigating Lakdim’s family members in Morocco, Abdelhak Khiame told The Associated Press.

Lakdim visited Morocco several times, most recently in February 2012, before the establishment of the Islamic State, Mr Khiame added.

Press Association

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