TREBES, France – A gun-wielding extremist unleashed bloodshed in a quiet corner of southern France on Friday, killing three people as he hijacked a car, opened fire on police and took hostages in a supermarket, where panicked shoppers hid in a meat freezer or ran through the aisles.
The 26-year-old attacker was slain as police stormed the market with the help of a heroic officer who had switched places with a captive and suffered life-threatening wounds — one of 16 people injured in the day’s violence.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the rampage near Carcassonne, a medieval city beloved by tourists, and the town of Trebes. It was the deadliest attack in France since Emmanuel Macron became president last year.
The officer who offered to be swapped for a female hostage was identified as Arnaud Beltrame. He managed to surreptitiously leave his phone on so that police outside could hear what was going on inside the supermarket — and crucially, decide when to storm it. A police official who was not authorized to be publicly identified confirmed the officer’s identity to The Associated Press.