In Trebes, a small town of 5,000 people in southern France near Carcassonne, at 11 a.m. on 23 March 2018, a 25-year-old Moroccan-born man, Radouane Lakdim, walked into a “Super U” supermarket and opened fire, killing two people immediately, an attendant and a customer.
An hour earlier, Lakdim had hijacked a car on the outskirts of Carcassonne, killing the passenger by shooting him to death and seriously wounding the driver.
Lakdim then drove five miles to Trebes, appeared to stop outside a military barracks, before stopping outside a riot police centre and shooting at a group of four officers from 200 yards away, seriously injuring one.
When Lakdim entered the Super U, there were about fifty people present. The siege of the shop lasted about three hours, with Lakdim demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving conspirator of the IS networks that carried out the massacre in Paris in November 2015 and the bombings in Brussels in March 2016. France finally lifted its state of emergency in October 2017, twenty-three months after the attacks.
The police and special forces had surrounded the supermarket and Lakdim had released all except one hostage, a forty-year-old woman named only as Julie, a mother of two who worked on the checkout. In a moment of simply extraordinary bravery, a gendarme, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, exchanged places with the lady. Beltrame kept his mobile telephone turned on so the police outside could hear what was happening inside the supermarket.
After several hours, Beltrame, who had surrendered his weapons, was stabbed multiple times by Lakdim during a struggle to disarm him. Police stormed the building and shot Lakdim dead; he had murdered four people and wounded sixteen in his killing spree. Beltrame died from his wounds a few hours later.
The French state prosecutor has admitted that Lakdim was placed on a watchlist in 2014 and under surveillance in 2016 and 2017 for his “radicalism and proximity to Salafist movements”, though he apparently showed no signs he was going to carry out an attack. A sign that perhaps the French security services dropped the ball is the statement of the interior minister, Gérard Collomb: “We had monitored him and did not think he had been radicalised. He was already under surveillance when he suddenly decided to act” [emphasis added]. Lakdim had at least three criminal convictions: one from 2011 for petty crime; another from 2015 for similar offences, including drugs; and in 2016 Lakdim was imprisoned for a month.
IS claimed the attack within hours on 23 March via Amaq, saying, “The attacker in Trebes located in southern France is a soldier of the Islamic State, and he carried out the operation in response to the Islamic State’s calls to target coalition states.”
IS remade its claim of responsibility on page 3 of the 125th edition of Al-Naba, its weekly newsletter, in an article entitled, “A new operation by one of the soldiers of the Caliphate killed and wounded 16 crusaders in southern France”.
Al-Naba does not have any new information and indeed rather conspicuously relies Amaq and local media reports. The traditional framing is used, saying Lakdim was “one of the soldiers of the Islamic State, who carried out the attack in response to calls to target the countries in the crusader alliance that fights dawlat al-khilafa [the caliphal state]”, and names him a “martyr”.
Al-Naba notes—with approval—that “during the hostage-taking” Lakdim was reported by “French media sources” to have “demanded the release of detainees held by the crusaders”.
There is also some gloating from Al-Naba that the “operation” occurred “despite the claim of the crusaders that the brother, Radouane al-Maghribi, (may God accept him) was monitored” by the state as part of the “strict security measures introduced by the countries of the cross” in response to IS’s foreign attacks campaign. This “demonstrates what those they [the West] call ‘al-dhiyab al-munfarida [lone wolves]’ can do to the countries of the cross … and the extent of the human and economic losses” that can be inflicted.
“The soldiers of the caliphate have already carried out approximately 11 operations in Crusader France”, concludes Al-Naba, the “most severe” of which was “the killing and wounding of some 130 crusaders” at the Bataclan, at “several cafes and restaurants in the capital”, and near the Stade de France on 13 November 2015.
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