Slain hero of French extremist attack gets posthumous honour

2018-03-28 21:01
Police officers escort for the coffin of late Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame before a funeral procession outside the Pantheon in Paris.( Etienne Laurent, Pool via AP)

Police officers escort for the coffin of late Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame before a funeral procession outside the Pantheon in Paris.( Etienne Laurent, Pool via AP)

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Paris – The slain hero of last week's extremist attack in southern France will be posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour by French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday during a solemn day-long national homage to him.

France's highest award will be bestowed on Col. Arnaud Beltrame during the various ceremonial events that both honour his memory and provide a focal point for national grief after last Friday's deadly attack.

It includes a minute's silence in French police stations and many events in schools. Beltrame's coffin will be carried in procession from the Pantheon across Paris to the Hotel des Invalides, where a ceremony will take place. Some 2 000 high school students and scores of police are attending the Paris homage that began with the French revolutionary anthem the Marseillaise being sung by gendarmes in the French Interior Ministry.

The ministry's boss, Gerard Collomb, maintained on Wednesday morning that there were no "dysfunctions" in tracking Beltrame's killer, Redouane Lakdim, who went went on a gun-wielding rampage in a quiet corner of southern France last Friday. Beltrame died after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket. Lakdim also killed three other people before he was shot dead by police.

Speaking on France Inter, amid questions on possible failures in counterterrorism tracking, Collomb confirmed the security services were about to reduce the surveillance on the gunman, who was on a radicalisation watch list.

But he said that all sources showed "ultimately no one thought that there would be a hasty attack" by Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality.

Radical behaviour

Questions have been also raised by authorities in Morocco.

The chief of a counterterrorism agency, known as Morocco's FBI, said on Tuesday that France never alerted his country about Lakdim's radical behaviour – calling the absence of contact "a misunderstanding".

"We were not notified about the radical background of Lakdim. I know well that he was under the French police radar, but since he is a Moroccan born, his country of birth should have been notified that its national is wanted by French security," the head of the agency, Abdelhak Khiame told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

After the attack, his agency, created three years ago to consolidate counter terrorism efforts, has been investigating Lakdim's family members in Morocco, he said.

Lakdim has visited Morocco several times, most recently in February 2012, before the establishment of the Islamic State, added Khiame.

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