‘Hostages taken’ and multiple dead in France attack
THREE people have been killed and up to 12 wounded after hostages were taken in an apparent terror attack in a supermarket in southern France.
On Friday morning local time, a gunman named as Redouane Lakdim, 26, is reported to have hijacked a car, killing the passenger in his hometown of Carcassonne.
He is then thought to have fired on a group of policemen out jogging, wounding one in the shoulder, before driving to the nearby town of Trebes where he took up to eight people hostage in a supermarket.
Two people were killed in the supermarket, local media reports. Most were later released with one military officer trading himself for a hostage, according to France 24. A stand-off with police ended in a deadly raid that killed Lakdim.
One of the dead is a Portuguese national.
Le Parisien reports the petty criminal that was known to authorities carried out the deadly attack after dropping his little sister at school.
Neighbours said the young man who lived with his parents and three sisters seemed "calm" and "nice".
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb confirmed on Friday afternoon the gunman had been shot dead. Mr Collomb said he was a radicalised petty criminal under surveillance.
The 26-year-old is said to have demanded the release of Paris attacker, Salah Abdesalam, according to BFM TV. Moroccan-Belgian national Abdeslam is the prime surviving suspect in the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
Trebes mayor, Eric Menassi, also told French television that the man entered the shop yelling: "Allahu Akbar, I'll kill you all".
French President Emmanual Macron said "everything leads us to believe it is a terror attack" and French prosecutors say they are treating the hostage-taking as a terror incident.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said all information suggested it "seems to be a terrorist act."
EU leaders also expressed solidarity with France, with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker saying: "France has again been hit by a cowardly and bloody act, after having previously been hit hard by terrorism."
"I express in my own name and that of the entire Commission all our feelings and our full support to the French authorities and French people," he said.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the act on a jihadist website, in a common pattern following lone-wolf attacks.
Secretary-general of SGP Police-FO police union Yves Lefebvre said the man first fired six shots at police on their way back from a morning run near Carcassonne.
The suspect then went to a Super U supermarket in the nearby small town of Trebes, Lefebvre said.
If the link to Islamic State is confirmed, the attack would be the first major incident since the election of centrist President Emmanuel Macron in May last year.
Special police units were sent to the scene and local authorities blocked roads and urged residents to stay away.
The shootings come with France still on high alert after a string of jihadist attacks since 2015, starting in January that year with the assault on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
France also suffered major attacks in Paris in November 2015 when IS jihadists killed 130 people at bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert venue and the national stadium.
In July 2016, in another attack claimed by IS, a man drove a truck through revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84 people.
A state of emergency put in place just after the Paris attacks was finally lifted in October last year, but soldiers continue to patrol major tourist sites and transport hubs under an anti-terror mission.
- With wires