TREBES (France) • Three people were killed in a terrorist attack in France yesterday when a gunman held up a car, opened fire on police and then took hostages in a supermarket, screaming "Allahu Akbar".
The gunman first hijacked a car, killing one person and wounding another. He then fired on police officers in Carcassonne, wounding an officer in the shoulder before heading to Trebes about 8km to the east, where two more people were killed at the Super-U supermarket.
Police later stormed the supermarket in the small south-western town of Trebes. Interior Minister Gerard Collomb later said on Twitter that the attacker had been killed. Two police officers were hurt in the operation, a source said.
Mr Collomb named the gunman, who was killed by police, as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, a small-time drug dealer.
Security sources had said the gunman was believed to be a Moroccan who was on a watch list of suspected extremists, but Mr Collomb did not confirm his nationality.
A source at the Interior Ministry said that while two people had died so far during the hostage-taking, the number of fatalities could go up.
"It is a provisional assessment as it could unfortunately get worse. Three people are wounded, including one of them seriously," the source said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said security forces were securing the area.
Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, where he was attending a European Union summit meeting, Mr Macron said: "We believe that it is indeed a terror attack."
BFM TV station reported that the hostage-taker had claimed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and that he had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam - the prime surviving suspect in the ISIS attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in 2015.
A 45-year-old lieutenant-colonel swapped himself in exchange for one of the hostages, a source close to the investigation said later, confirming information first published by Le Figaro newspaper.
The officer was one of the policemen injured during the operation to kill the gunman.
Mr Eric Menassi, the mayor of Trebes, told LCI TV that the man had entered the shop in Trebes screaming "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest), I'll kill you all".
Ms Carole (only first name given), who was shopping at the supermarket, described how people had taken refuge in a cold room.
"A man shouted and fired several times. I saw a cold room door, I asked people to come and take shelter," she told Franceinfo radio. "There were 10 of us, and we stayed for an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out the back door."
For the French authorities, what was particularly alarming about the events yesterday was that the area targeted was quiet and provincial, far from the big cities that have typically attracted terrorist violence.
"This can strike no matter where, no matter when, no matter how," said police union official Yves Lefebvre, speaking on Europe 1 radio.
The EU offers its full support to the French people, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said.
More than 240 people have been killed in France since 2015 in attacks by assailants who pledged allegiance to, or were inspired by, ISIS.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST