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TERRORISM

The victims of France’s jihadist supermarket shooting

Along with a heroic police officer who offered himself as a hostage, the victims of the jihadist shooting attack in France were a butcher and two pensioners.

The victims of France's jihadist supermarket shooting
People stand next to flowers laid in front of the Gendarmerie Nationale in Carcassonne on March 24th. Photo: AFP

The first victim of gunman Radouane Lakdim was the passenger of the car he hijacked in the medieval town of Carcassonne, retired winemaker Jean Mazieres.

In his sixties, the married father-of-one had retired two years ago and delighted in playing an active local role, notably through a committee to organise village fetes.

“He was very jolly — he loved life, he loved parties,” said Marc Rofes, the mayor of nearby Villedubert where Mazieres and his family had lived for four generations.

“We have lost someone who was liked by everybody,” Rofes said.

“He was really in the wrong place at the wrong time. A tragic fate.”

Lakdim also shot the driver of the car, a Portuguese national who remains in a critical condition.

After stealing the car and shooting and wounding a police officer who was out jogging, Lakdim drove to the Super U supermarket in the nearby town of Trebes.

He shot the store's chief butcher Christian Medves in the head, according to a colleague who gave his name as Jacky.

“We still don't know what happened, but knowing Christian, I imagine he would have wanted to intervene,” said Franck Alberti, Medves' friend for the past 45 years.

“He was a good guy, a brave and dignified guy,” Alberti told regional newspaper l'Independant.

Medves, a married father of two daughters, had just celebrated his 50th birthday and became a grandfather a year ago.

Friends said he was an accomplished sportsman and a jovial figure, who loved a good bottle of wine and partying with friends late into the night.

Lakdim also gunned down a customer at the butcher's counter: 65-year-old Herve Sosna, a retired builder.

A Trebes local, Sosna “had a huge intellectual capacity — he read an enormous amount, especially poems,” his half-brother William Durand told the regional Depeche du Midi newspaper.

“He never wanted to leave Trebes, so he went into building work,” said Durand, who saw his brother every day.

Sosna went to the supermarket twice a week.

“He never asked for anything, and he was killed, just like that,” his brother said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, deputy chief of the regional force of gendarmes, has been hailed a hero for taking the place of a woman at the supermarket whom Lakdim was using as a human shield.

He hoped to be able to negotiate once all the shoppers and staff had been taken to safety, but Lakdim shot and stabbed him.

President Emmanuel Macron led tributes to an officer who “displayed exceptional calm in the heat of the moment”.

His family say they were not surprised that Beltrame would put the lives of others before his own.

“He was always like that — he's someone who ever since he was born did everything for his country,” his mother, who has not been named, told RTL radio.

“He would tell me, 'Mum, I do my job. That's all'.”

Beltrame's brother Cedric said he would have known all too well the risk he was taking.

READ ALSO: Arnaud Beltrame, French cop who 'died a hero'

TERRORISM

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.

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