Paris shooting: Family of dead French policeman pay tribute to their 'pillar'

LIVRY-GARGAN, France (AFP) - Relatives of Ahmed Merabet, the policeman who was shot in cold blood as he tried to stop the Charlie Hebdo attackers from fleeing, paid a moving tribute Saturday to a man they described as the "pillar" of their family.

One of the 17 victims of a three-day Islamist killing spree that has shaken France to the core, Merabet's death Wednesday was caught on video - footage that was shown on television and that his partner said she saw without even knowing what she was watching.

"Ahmed, a man of commitment," his brother Malek said, before breaking down in tears.

After a short moment, he continued: "(He) had the will to watch over his mum and his loved-ones since the death of his father 20 years ago."

"A pillar of his family, his duties did not stop him from being a protective son, a teasing brother, a doting uncle and a loving companion," he told a news conference.

Merabet was killed as Cherif and Said Kouachi escaped from the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine after having mowed down 11 people inside.

Fired on by the attackers, he fell to the ground wounded. One of the two brothers then ran towards him and shot him dead at point-blank range.

A Muslim, Merabet was killed at the hands of men who claimed to be acting in the name of his religion.

Many in France's Muslim community fear a backlash from the killings, and French leaders have repeatedly called for people not to confuse Islam with extremism.

"I am now telling all racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites that one must not confuse extremists with Muslims," Malek Merabet said.

He also chided media for using the footage of his brother's killing.

"How dare you take this video and broadcast it? I heard his voice, I recognised him, I saw him being killed and I continue to hear him every day."