What we know about the gunman in French supermarket attack

The gunman who killed three people and fatally wounded a policeman in southwest France on Friday before being shot dead by police was a 25-year-old small-time drug dealer with a history of minor crimes.

What we know about the gunman in French supermarket attack
R: An undated and unsituated picture obtained on March 23rd, 2018 showing Radouane Lakdim. L: a view of the Super U supermarket inTrebes. AFP Photo

The rap sheet against Radouane Lakdim, a French citizen born in Morocco according to sources close to the inquiry, eventually drew deeper scrutiny by investigators worried he was at risk of Islamic radicalisation.

In the summer of 2014 Lakdim, who lived in Carcassonne, was put on a watchlist of people considered possible extremists.

“He was added to the list because of his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement” of ultra-conservative Islamism, Francois Molins, France's top anti-terror prosecutor, said at a press conference in Carcassonne.

He was found guilty of carrying a prohibited weapon in 2011 and later for drug use and refusing a court order in 2015, Molins said.

In 2016 then in 2017 he was the subject of an investigation by intelligence services, “which did not bring to light any sign that would indicate he would carry out a terrorist act,” he added.

But when entering the Super U supermarket in nearby Trebes on Friday, Lakdim shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), declared he was ready to die for Syria, and demanded the freedom for his brothers” before shooting and killing a client and an employee.

“He was just a regular kid, from a simple and regular family. He wore a beard and didn't have a job,” a neighbour told AFP, asking to remain anonymous.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that Lakdim lived with his parents, and quoted a neighbour saying he had dropped off a little sister at school on Friday morning.

On Friday night a massive police operation was being carried out at the Ozanam housing estate in Carcassonne where Lakdim lived, not far from the police headquarters where he shot at officers earlier.

“We're in a state of siege,” one resident at the scene said by phone as heavily armed and masked officers carried out searches.

Few people were willing to talk to reporters, including a relative reached by telephone who quickly hung up.

The estate has seen an increase in recent years of the kind of drug-dealing and vandalism that have blighted many poor districts across France.

“We've been alerting the authorities for a while now, there's dealing, there are guns going around, we hear gunshots,” one retired woman told AFP.

A man in his 40s said he arrived in Ozanam when he was 14, “but now, I'm getting my mum out, she's had two of her cars set on fire.”

But others said it was no worse than other housing estates, and said there had been no signs of radicalisation with Lakdim or other youths.

“He wore a beard but he was just a regular kid,” one neighbour said.

“He came out twice a day to walk his dog; we were really surprised to learn it was him.”

But Lakdim's trajectory appears to have followed a grimly familiar pattern in France over recent years of young men progressing from petty crimes into terrorism, often despite surveillance by the authorities.

Since the January 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris by two men claiming allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, more than 240 people have been killed in jihadist attacks.

After the Stade France and the Bataclan concert hall and nearby bars in November 2015, investigators found that the ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving gunman, had both served time for robbery around 2011.

A string of deadly gun and knife attacks has followed, and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said dozens of others have been thwarted by police as the government stepped up anti-terror measures.

In Carcassonne itself, police had arrested a 22-year-old man in June 2016 on suspicion of planning to target American and Russian tourists, after months of surveillance.

“The acts carried out today sadly remind us once more, tragically, that the terrorist threat level on our territory has not lessened,” Molins said.

“Now mainly internal, it is first of all the result of radicalised individuals living in our country,” he said.

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US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.