Hero officer Arnaud Beltrame symbolises 'love of country and French spirit of resistance'
President Emmanuel Macron paid the ultimate tribute to a French police officer who was killed after taking the place of a jihadist gunman’s hostage – comparing his sacrifice to those of World War II heroes.
Mr Macron hailed hero gendarme Arnaud Beltrame at a national ceremony in Paris on Wednesday (March 28) saying the slain officer symbolised the “French spirit of resistance”.
Addressing mourners at a solemn ceremony at the Invalides military museum in Paris, Mr Macron said the example set by Lieutenant Colonel Beltrame’s would “remain etched in French hearts”.
The 44-year-old officer was the fourth and final victim in the shooting spree last Friday (March 23) in the southwestern towns of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes. Lt-Col Beltrame was stabbed and shot after offering himself in exchange for a hostage – a female supermarket worker.
In a speech flanked by the coffin, the officer’s family, hundreds of gendarmes, members of the government and public who had gathered to pay respects, Mr 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 Mr 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, the president 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 elite officer in the paramilitary gendarmerie 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 (Daesh).
She was being used as a human shield and Lt-Col Beltrame hoped to negotiate once the terrified shoppers and supermarket staff were out of the way.
But Lakdim shot the officer and stabbed him in the throat, leading colleagues to intervene and shoot the attacker dead. The officer succumbed to his wounds early on Saturday (March 24).
Also killed were the supermarket’s butcher, a shopper and a passenger in the car that Lakdim had hijacked earlier in Carcassonne.
The attacker wounded four other people, including the driver of the hijacked car and a police officer shot while out jogging.
The officer married his partner Marielle Vandenbunder-Beltrame, 39, in hospital hours before his death. The ceremony was carried out by the Catholic monk due to marry them in church in June. The couple had previously married under civil law.
It also emerged on Monday that Lakdim’s girlfriend, like the gunman himself, reportedly had been on a watchlist of suspected extremists.
The 18-year-old woman, who has been in police custody since Friday evening, was under surveillance by intelligence services.
A 17-year-old man has also been detained for questioning.
France has lost more than 240 lives to jihadists over the past three years, and the attack is the country’s worst since Mr Macron became president last May.