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Four dead in Aude terrorism shooting

LanguedocLiving, Mar 23

At least four people are believed to have been killed when a gunman opened fire at a supermarket in Trèbes, Aude on Friday morning. Here's what we know so far about the ongoing situation.

First shots in Carcassonne

On Friday morning news broke of separate incidents in and around the historic town of Carcassonne, Aude that later proved to be connected.

In the first incident the attacker hijacked a car, opening fire on the driver and the passenger. The driver was left seriously injured and the passenger dead. He then hid their bodies in bushes.

Then the man drove the vehicle at high speed towards a group of four CRS policemen who were jogging in Carcassonne. He had apparently been following the police who were based in Marseille but were on placement in the historic town.

He opened fire, firing five shots and leaving one of the officers injured in the shoulder. Police said the bullet passed 3 cm from his heart but the injured man is not believed to be in a critical condition.

The gunman then drove 8 km to the nearby town of Trèbes where he opened fire in the Super U supermarket while shoppers were inside. Two people were killed and the victims are believed to be a member of staff and a customer.

The gunman then took an unknown number of shoppers hostage.

Many other customers fled trough emergency doors and took refuge in a nearby Peugeot garage.

Hiding in a cold room

Carole, who was shopping at the supermarket, said people hid in a cold room.

"A man shouted and fired several times. I saw a cold room door, and asked people to come and take shelter," she told France info radio.

"There were 10 of us, and we stayed an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out the emergency back door."

Heroic swap

News sources were finally informed that the gunman still held one shopper hostage inside the store but he'd agreed to release the shopper in exchange for a policeman, a 45 year-old Lieutenant-Colonel from Toulouse.

Before entering the supermarket the officer had called a colleague and left the call open so his specialist commando officers could hear what was happening inside the store.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that just after 2.30 pm police launched a raid on the supermarket when they heard shots being fired. The gunman was killed in the assault but the officer who had been exchanged for the hostage was left seriously injured after being shot.  

Unfortunately the injured policeman died from his wounds overnight. At the moment it is not clear whether he was in the way of police gunfire, or if the gunman shot him.

Terror attack?

Several witnesses reported that the gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he opened fire in the supermarket. The cry, which means "God is great" in Arabic, has been uttered by jihadists in previous terror attacks.

Prosecutors then quickly announced that the gunman had claimed allegiance to the Islamist extremist terror group Isis and that they were treating the incident as a terror attack.

Specialist anti-terror prosecutors in Paris took charge of the investigation and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe also said: "Everything points to this being an act of terrorism."

Following the police raid that killed the gunman the Isis propaganda agency Amaq claimed he was "a soldier of the Islamic State who carried out the attack in response to the calls to attack coalition countries."

President Emmanuel Macron said: "The terrorist threat remains high because many individuals have become radicalised."

Syrian revenge

According to witnesses the gunman said he wanted to "avenge Syria" and demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the last surviving member of the jihadists who carried out the November 2015 Paris attacks currently held in a French prison awaiting trial.

Police are believed to have identified the gunman - a 26-year-old Franco-Moroccan national named Redouane Lakdim, before the assault was over.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the attacker, who lived in Carcassonne, was a "petty criminal" known for drug dealing "who suddenly decided to act".

Collomb said he was not considered a terror threat.

He was known by the police for petty crimes. We had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised," Collomb said after arriving at the scene of the hostage-taking in Trèbes.

"He was already under surveillance when he suddenly decided to act," he said. Collomb did not confirm the nationality of Lakdim.

France Info radio quoted sources who said he was active on social network sites frequented by extremists. He had also spent time in prison in 2016 and is suspected of having travelled to Syria at some point.

Lakdim lived in an apartment in Carcassonne with his parents and several sisters - one of whom a neighbour saw him taking to school on Friday morning.

[It's hard to reconcile the view that he was both active on extremist websites and not a threat? Ed

Schools closed

After the discovery of the bodies of the victims of the intial car hijacking, authorities took the step of evacuating Carcassonne's medieval fortress and asking tourists and visitors to remain in their hotels or restaurants.

Schools in Carcassonne also went into lock down with pupils kept inside.

The security measures were later lifted.

Sixteen injured

In the late afternoon, President Emmanuel Macron said 16 people had been injured in the attack.  Two of them were very seriously injured and are fighting for their lives in hospital.

Source: France3, The Local, BBC.

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