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TERRORISM

Hero gendarme Arnaud Beltrame symbolized ‘French spirit of resistance’

French President Emmanuel Macron hailed hero gendarme Arnaud Beltrame at a state funeral in Paris on Wednesday saying the policeman slain by a jihadist last week symbolised "the French spirit of resistance".

Hero gendarme Arnaud Beltrame symbolized 'French spirit of resistance'
Photo: AFP

Addressing mourners at a solemn funeral ceremony at the Invalides military museum in Paris, Macron compared Arnaud Beltrame's sacrifice to those of France's World War II heroes and said his example would “remain etched in French hearts”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was the fourth and final victim in the shooting spree last Friday in the southwestern towns of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes. Beltrame was stabbed and shot after offering himself in exchange for a hostage.

In a speech in front of Beltrame's family, hundreds of gendarmes, members of the government and public who had gathered to pay respects, Macron paid a glowing tribute to the man who has quickly become a national hero.

“At the moment of the final goodbye I offer you the recognition, the admiration and the affection of the whole country,” said Macron.

The president also said that “while the name of his murderer is already being forgotten, the name of Arnaud Beltrame will always represent French heroism.”

And speaking about the terror threat facing France Macron said: “This is a new test. But our people have overcome many others. And for that reason we will overcome this one. We will win thanks to the resilience and calm of the French people and by the cohesion of a united country.”

The senior policeman had taken the place of a woman held as a final hostage in a supermarket by 25-year-old gunman Radouane Lakdim, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

France has lost more than 240 lives to jihadists over the past three years, and the attack is the country's worst since Macron became president last May.

Around 200 of Beltrame's colleagues from the gendarmerie, a national police force which is part of the military, will attend the ceremony in Paris from 1030 GMT.

Macron gave the eulogy at Les Invalides, a historic complex which is home to France's army museum and a veterans' retirement centre.

 

Across the country, police stations paused for a minute's silence at 0800 GMT.

The coffin of Beltrame, who was married, was flown in from Carcassonne on Tuesday, draped in the French flag with his military cap laid upon it.

Along with the police officer, Lakdim shot dead the passenger of a car he hijacked in Carcassonne and two people in the supermarket he had besieged in Trebes.

Beltrame took the place of the woman Lakdim was using as a human shield, hoping to negotiate once the terrified shoppers and supermarket staff were out of the way.

But Lakdim shot Beltrame and slit his throat, leading police to intervene and shoot the attacker dead.

The attacker wounded four other people, including the driver of the hijacked car and a policeman shot while out jogging.

Beltrame has been hailed as a national hero, with family members saying it was typical of him to put others first.

“You behaved in your last moments just as you behaved throughout your whole life: as a patriot, as a good man, as a man with a big heart,” his brother Damien wrote on Facebook.

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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