Police kill hostage taker at supermarket in southern France

Authorities say man shouted ‘Allahu akbar’ and shot at officers in incident in southern French town

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 10:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 23 March, 2018, 11:05pm

French police killed a gunman holed up in supermarket in southern France where he had taken hostages earlier on Friday, a source close to the investigation said.

“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.

Earlier, two people were killed when the gunman screaming “Allahu akbar” shot at police and took the hostages. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the incident appeared to be a terrorist act.

Islamic State said it was behind the attack but gave no evidence to support the claim.

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

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

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.

The man first shot at four police officers in the historic town of Carcassonne before barricading himself in the Super-U supermarket in Trebes, about 8km (five miles) to the east.

A police union official said the attacker had killed one person with a bullet in the head in Carcassonne before the hostage-taking.

Menassi also told LCI TV that the man 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 lead us to think that this would be a terrorist act.”

Carole, a shopper at the supermarket at the time, 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 10, and we stayed an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out of the back door.”

French investigators admitted they knew the hostage-taker, who was flagged in a database of radicalised Islamist militants, according to Franceinfo.

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

The Paris prosecutor’s office did not comment on the possible Islamic State allegiance.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry 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.