Paris shooting: Support pours in for Muslim policeman killed in Charlie Hebdo attack

Mr Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was killed while trying to stop armed gunmen from fleeing the scene after their attack on Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: TWITTER
Mr Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was killed while trying to stop armed gunmen from fleeing the scene after their attack on Charlie Hebdo. -- PHOTO: TWITTER

PARIS - Muslim policeman Ahmed Merabet who was killed while trying to stop armed gunmen from fleeing the scene after their attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has been honoured with the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed, which means "I am Ahmed".

This follows the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie, or "I am Charlie" which was started on Twitter in a show of solidarity by the French, and in support of the 12 people who were killed in the massacre at the magazine's Paris offices on Wednesday.

Mr Merabet has been singled out for his faith, both because the gunmen are believed to be Islamist terrorists, and because Charlie Hebdo was known to produce satire that lampooned Islam.

He was touted on Twitter as the "true face of Islam", in contrast to the gunmen who shouted "The Prophet has been avenged" after the shooting.

Mr Merabet's murder at point-blank range was captured in a graphic video that went viral online.

"He was killed in a cowardly way by people who had misinterpreted their sacred text," said Christophe Crépin, a spokesman for one of France's police unions. "Yet he himself was from an immigrant background."

New York Times reported that some Twitter users wrote that Mr Merabet had died defending a newspaper that was accused of insulting his faith, and one user posted a quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Mr Merabet, who was in his 40s, was called to the scene while on patrol in Paris's 11th Arrondissement, according to Rocco Contento, an official with another police union, who knew Mr Merabet.

Mr Merabet saw the black Citroën used by the gunmen heading towards the boulevard from Charlie Hebdo.

"He was on foot, and came nose to nose with the terrorists. He pulled out his weapon. It was his job, it was his duty," said Mr Rocco.

Video footage showed the two gunmen get out of the car before one shot Mr Merabet in the groin. As he falls to the ground and holding up an arm as though to protect himself, the second gunman moves forward and asks him: "Do you want to kill us?" Mr Merabet replies: "Non, ç'est bon, chef" ("No, it's OK mate"). The gunman then shoots him in the head, The Guardian reported.

Mr Merebet, whose family came originally from Tunisia, had been in the force for eight years.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg