Tibet group thanks Sweden in ‘Chinese spy’ case

A Tibetan leader says she hopes other countries will follow Sweden’s example by prosecuting alleged spies who give China information on exiled Tibetans.

On Wednesday, Sweden charged a Tibetan man, Dorjee Gyantsan, with espionage. China allegedly paid him for personal information about fellow Tibetans.

Tibetan community leader Jamyang Choedon said Sweden’s action could “be an example for other countries”.

Her associates in Sweden back the Dalai Lama’s struggle for Tibetan self-rule.

The Dalai Lama – the Tibetans’ exiled spiritual leader – is seen by China as a separatist threat. The Chinese Communist Party insists Tibet is an inseparable part of China.

Read more on China and Tibet:

  • The Dalai Lama’s hopes for ancient wisdom
  • Tibet history and politics
  • Tibetan voices on China’s control

    Ms Choedon, speaking to the BBC from Stockholm, said her small community of about 140 Tibetans was “really shocked and a bit scared” by the case of Dorjee Gyantsan, who is 49. She said it was the first such case in Sweden.

    Mr Gyantsan has denied all the charges, his lawyer Mikael Soderberg told the BBC. Arrested in February 2017, he is currently free but not allowed to leave Sweden.

    “We know him, he was actively taking part in the community,” Ms Choedon said. “I never felt he was against the Dalai Lama. He has been in Sweden more than 10 years.”

    “We’re very thankful to the Swedish government that they are taking full steps; I hope all other countries do the same.”

    Trips to Poland

    The indictment accuses Mr Gyantsan of having spied on Tibetan community members in Sweden for “cash benefits” and says he met “a representative of the Chinese state repeatedly in Poland, in connection with this activity”. The espionage allegedly took place in 2015-2017.

    When he was arrested, on returning from Warsaw, he was found to be carrying $6,000 (£4,200) in cash.

    “The offence is considered gross because it was systematic, in progress for a long time and may have caused many people serious harm,” the indictment says.

    In Sweden the minimum jail term for spying is six months and the maximum four years.

    Commenting on the case, Daniel Stenling, an officer of Sweden’s Sapo intelligence service, said Sapo had worked with other European police authorities to monitor Mr Gyantsan’s activities.

    He called such spying “a very serious crime… as it prevents people who are already vulnerable, and have fled their countries, from exercising the rights and freedoms they should be enjoying under Sweden’s constitution”.

France attack: Lakdim’s girlfriend ‘known to security services’

The girlfriend of the man who carried out last week’s attack in south-west France was known to the security services, local media report.

A source close to the investigation told the AFP news agency the 18-year-old French woman, who is in custody, showed “signs of radicalisation”.

Four people were killed and 15 injured in the attack on 23 March.

The gunman, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim, was on an extremist watch list but it was decided he was not a threat.

  • Arnaud Beltrame: France lauds policeman who swapped with hostage

    He was shot dead by police after killing and injuring a number of people in separate incidents, including taking hostages at a supermarket in the town of Trèbes.

    Tributes have been paid to the victims, including a French gendarme who was killed after swapping places with one of the hostages.

    According to French-language radio station RMC, the attacker’s girlfriend is a convert to Islam who has been known to security services for at least a year. She has not been named but remains in police custody.

    A 17-year-old said to have been a friend of the attacker is also being held.

    Lakdim, who was born in Morocco and became a French citizen in 2004, was a petty criminal before he was flagged as a potential security threat in 2014.

    During the attack, he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and is said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

    Prosecutor Francois Molins said Lakdim had been on an extremist watch-list due to “his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement”, a hard-line offshoot of Sunni Islam. However, there had been no indication he would carry out an attack.

Russia Kemerovo fire: Shopping centre exits ‘were blocked’

Russian investigators and witnesses say there was no alarm and exits were blocked when a fire engulfed a shopping and entertainment mall in Siberia, killing at least 64 people.

Many of the victims in the coal-mining city of Kemerovo were children.

Russia’s Investigative Committee spoke of blocked exits and “serious violations” at the Winter Cherry mall.

Sunday’s blaze started on an upper floor. The mall’s shops, cinema and bowling alley were packed at the time.

Video on social media showed people jumping from windows to escape.

The Investigative Committee says a fire safety technician at the complex “switched off the alarm system” after being alerted about the fire.

The committee says two other fire safety officials have been detained for questioning, along with the Winter Cherry complex’s technical director and the manager of a business located where the fire started.

Ten people are still listed as missing. Local teachers are trying to trace their pupils, who were on holiday. They do not know how many were in the complex.

In a Facebook post (in Russian), Kemerovo politician Anton Gorelkin said that “fire exits were shut, turning the complex into a trap” and “there was no organised evacuation”.

He also said a fire extinguisher that could have doused the flames at the start did not work.

The region’s deputy governor, Vladimir Chernov, said “this is the question: why were the doors shut?”

Russian media said most of the roof had collapsed. The fire engulfed a children’s trampoline room and a cinema on the fourth floor.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Firefighters said the building was still smouldering a day later, with smoke billowing out and the remaining structures at risk of collapse.

What do we know so far?

The fire broke out at about 17:00 (10:00 GMT) on Sunday. Some 660 emergency personnel were deployed in the rescue effort.

Deputy governor Chernov was quoted as saying the fire probably began in the children’s trampoline room.

“The preliminary suspicion is that a child had a cigarette lighter which ignited foam rubber in this trampoline room, and it erupted like gunpowder,” he said.

However, Rossiya 24 TV, a national broadcaster, said an electrical fault was the most likely cause – as in most previous deadly fires in Russia.

Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, Anna Kuznetsova, has blamed negligence, and called for urgent safety checks at similar entertainment complexes.

Two witnesses told BBC Russian that they had seen the fire blazing in the trampoline room on the fourth floor but had not heard any fire alarm.

Meanwhile, witness Anna Zarechneva told Russian RBC News that “a woman burst into the cinema during the film and shouted ‘Fire! Fire!’, and we started running out”.

“The lights didn’t come on in there to help us escape. We got out by following the floor lighting. But at that point no alarm bells were ringing. I only heard an alarm when I reached the first floor.”

The daughter of a shop assistant who was working on the second floor said “the alarm didn’t go off… she learnt about the fire from a man who ran past her – there was no help from any staff”.


Russia’s deadliest fires

2009 – 156 people die in a Perm nightclub inferno in the Urals region, Russia’s worst fire in recent years (fireworks and lack of exits blamed)

2007 – Fire engulfs a rural old people’s home in the southern region of Krasnodar, killing 63 (burning cigarette blamed)

2006 – 46 die in Moscow narcological hospital fire (arson blamed)

2003 – A hostel fire at the Russian People’s Friendship University in Moscow kills 44 (lack of safety measures blamed)

1999 – Fire engulfs the police headquarters in the southern city of Samara, killing 57 people (burning cigarette blamed officially, but arson by criminals not ruled out)

Source: Interfax news agency


There are unconfirmed reports that some mall guards prevented children from fleeing down staircases.

Kemerovo region has declared three days of mourning, and locals are leaving flowers and cuddly toys at a makeshift memorial near the complex.

An Instagram post from Kemerovo showed a big queue of volunteers waiting to donate blood at a clinic.

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Who were the victims?

At least nine of the bodies found so far are children.

As well as those killed, 11 injured victims are being treated in hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation.

The most serious case is an 11-year-old boy whose parents and siblings died in the fire, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said. He reportedly fell from the fourth floor and is in intensive care with multiple injuries.

Russia’s emergencies ministry says 58 bodies have been recovered, and so far just 17 have been identified.

Kemerovo lies about 3,600km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow.

The shopping centre, covering 23,000 sq m (248,000 sq ft), opened in 2013. It includes a petting zoo, all of whose animals are reported to have died.

Yevgeny Dedyukhin, deputy head of the Kemerovo region emergency department, said the area of the fire was about 1,500 sq m.

“The shopping centre is a very complex construction,” he said. “There are a lot of combustible materials.”

Spain Catalonia: Puigdemont’s arrest in Germany sparks mass protests

Protests broke out across the Spanish region of Catalonia on Sunday after former leader Carles Puigdemont was taken into custody in Germany.

At least 89 people were injured in clashes with police and four arrests were made.

Mr Puigdemont, who is wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, was detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant.

He will appear before a German judge later on Monday.

Mr Puigdemont was detained while crossing from Denmark on his way to Belgium, where he has been living in self-imposed exile since Catalonia’s parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October.

Germany has 60 days to decide whether to return him.

In order to do so, its judges need to assess whether the Spanish charges are punishable under German law.

Criminal lawyer Martin Heger told Germany’s Spiegel website (in German) that the lesser charge of misappropriation of public funds was also a crime under German law, and therefore it was clear that the exiled ex-leader would have to be extradited.

However, if he is extradited on that charge, he can only be tried on that offence.

It is unclear whether the alleged crimes of rebellion and sedition are punishable in Germany.

The extradition procedure can last about two months.

Mt Puigdemont also has the right to oppose the warrant and apply for asylum in Germany.

Spain’s latest move is considered the most serious challenge to date to the Catalan independence movement. Almost the entire leadership now faces a major legal fight.

Various other Catalan politicians have been subjected to new warrants, including Catalonia’s former education minister, Clara Ponsati. She is in Scotland, where she has a position at the University of St Andrews, and is preparing to hand herself in.

The number of European arrest warrants issued has increased since 2005, according to EU figures. In 2015, about 16,000 warrants were issued and about 5,000 executed.

How did we get here?

1 October 2017: The independence referendum takes place in Catalonia; it is deemed illegal by Spain and boycotted by many potential voters

27 October: Catalonia’s leaders declare independence, which leads to the Spanish government imposing direct rule on the region and dissolving its parliament

30 October: Charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds are brought against various sacked members of the Catalan government, including Mr Puigdemont

2 November: Several former Catalan ministers are taken into custody in Spain

3 November: European arrest warrants are issued against Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies, who have all fled to Belgium

5 December: A Spanish judge withdraws the European arrest warrants but says the group still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion

21 December: Carles Puigdemont is re-elected to parliament during Catalan’s regional elections – which Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had called to “restore democracy”

1 March 2018: Mr Puigdemont says he is stepping aside and he backs detained activist Jordi Sanchez to run as Catalonia’s president

21 March: Mr Sanchez drops his leadership bid and instead the candidacy is passed to Jordi Turull, who the following day is rejected by hardline separatists

23 March: Mr Turull and various others are arrested in Spain, and the European arrest warrants are reissued

25 March: Mr Puigdemont is detained in Germany

Russia fire: Kemerovo shopping centre blaze kills children

At least four people, three of them children, have been killed and dozens injured in a fire at a shopping centre in Siberia, media reports say.

The blaze started on the fourth floor of the Winter Cherry building in the city of Kemerovo, according to Russia’s Sputnik news site.

Video posted on social media showed smoke billowing from windows as fire crews worked to evacuate the property.

People were also seen jumping from windows to escape the flames on Sunday.

Initial reports said that four children had died, but this was later corrected to three children and a woman.

A representative of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said that 26 people had sought treatment or had been taken to hospital.

The fire started in part of the building that contains an entertainment complex and a cinema, local media reported, raising concerns that more children may have been trapped.

Ms Petrenko added that in two of the halls that formed part of the cinema, the ceiling had collapsed.

More than 200 people were reportedly evacuated in a rescue operation that involved 15 fire crews.

Eyewitnesses said the popular shopping centre also contained a zoo, with animals including guinea pigs, goats, hedgehogs and cats – although there have been no reports of any animal fatalities.

The cause of the blaze is not yet known but authorities have launched an investigation into the incident, Sputnik added.

‘Orange snow’ baffles eastern Europeans

People in eastern Europe have been wondering at the appearance of orange-tinted snow.

Pictures of the snow have been posted on social media from Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova.

Meteorologists say the phenomenon is caused by sand from Sahara desert storms mixing with snow and rain.

It occurs roughly once every five years but concentrations of sand are higher than usual his time. People have complained of sand in their mouths.

Skiers and snowboarders from resorts near the Russian city of Sochi sent pictures of the unusual scenes.

France gun attack: Trèbes held memorial Mass for victims

A memorial Mass has been celebrated in the southern French town of Trèbes, in honour of four people killed by an Islamist gunman on Friday.

One of them, policeman Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, has been hailed as a hero for trading places with a captive during a siege at a supermarket.

The bishop at the church told hundreds of mourners that his actions were comparable to that of a saint.

It is the worst jihadist attack under Emmanuel Macron’s presidency.

The gunman, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim, had been on an extremist watch list and was known to authorities as a petty criminal, but intelligence services had determined he did not pose a threat. He was shot dead by police.

Lakdim, who pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants, was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

  • France approves tough new anti-terror laws
  • Tributes paid for hostage-swap policeman

    In the packed Church of Saint-Etienne in Trèbes, the bishop of Carcassonne and Narbonne compared the police officer’s actions with those of a Polish saint who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger at the World War Two death camp at Auschwitz.

    Mourners, which included members of the local Muslim community, lined the back and front steps of the church.

    “Your presence tells us that the creators of hatred will not win,” Bishop Alain Planet said to the Muslim congregates in his address.

    Outside the 14th-century church, the local imam later said according to the news agency AFP: “The [Muslim] community has been stabbed, Islam itself has been stabbed… by people who use symbols that are dear to our hearts.”

    The chief of French police, Richard Lizurey, attended the service and later told reporters that Col Beltrame was an inspiration to those working in the French security services.

    “It’s an heroic act. In fact an exceptional act, carried out in the heat of action,” the head of the Gendarmerie said. “We are proud. Proud to have counted Arnaud Beltrame among us.”

    The attack has shaken the rural town of 5,000 people, and flowers have been laid in front of the Super U shop where the hostage-taking took place, as well as outside Col Beltrame’s police barracks. A separate national memorial in Paris will also honour the killed officer in the coming days.

    Khadija, a 52-year-old restaurant owner, said she was shocked by what had occurred. “We thought this only happened in big towns,” she told AFP.

    Who were the victims?

    Jean Mazières

    Before the hostage-taking in Trèbes, Lakdim hijacked a car in nearby Carcassonne, shooting the Portuguese driver and killing passenger Jean Mazières, a retired winemaker in his sixties.

    He organised villages fetes and was described as “very jolly” by Marc Rofes, the mayor of Villedubert, where his family lives.

    “He loved life, he loved parties… we have lost someone who was liked by everybody,” he said of Mr Mazières, who was married and had one child.

    The driver of the car remains in a critical condition.

    Christian Medvès

    After opening fire on a group of police officers out jogging, wounding one, the gunman drove to the Super U in Trèbes, where he killed the shop’s chief butcher, Christian Medvès.

    An amateur runner and one-time local political candidate, Mr Medvès, 50, was described as having the “joy of life”.

    “We do not know yet what happened, but knowing Christian, I imagine he would have wanted to intervene,” his friend Franck Alberti told local paper La Dépêche du Midi.

    He was married with two daughters.

    Hervé Sosna

    Retired builder Hervé Sosna, 65, was at the butcher’s counter when Lakdim mounted his assault.

    The Trèbes resident “had a huge intellectual capacity” and was a capacious reader, especially of poetry, his half-brother told La Dépêche du Midi.

    “He never asked for anything, and he was killed, just like that.”

    Arnaud Beltrame

    The brave police officer has emerged as the human face of this attack, and his actions are being seen as a defiant response to the country’s would-be attackers – a reminder of the best of France, says BBC Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson.

    Although police managed to free hostages from the supermarket, Lakdim had held one woman back as a human shield, and Col Beltrame volunteered to swap himself for her.

    As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

    When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed and Col Beltrame, who was 44, was mortally wounded.

    He and his wife, Marielle, had been married in a civil ceremony but were planning a church wedding in June. The Catholic priest who was meant to officiate at the ceremony visited Col Beltrame in hospital, where Marielle was keeping vigil, before he died.

    World leaders, including UK PM Theresa May, have paid tribute to the officer, who was a highly-regarded member of the Gendarmerie Nationale and was described by President Macron on Saturday as someone who “fought until the end and never gave up”.

    “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would,” Col Beltrame’s brother, Cedric, told a French radio station on Saturday.

    Speaking to the BBC, Col Arnaud’s cousin Florence Nicolic described the officer as a person who was “so good at his job”.

    “Even though we were surprised and shocked when we heard what happened we were not surprised in the sense that that’s the thing he would do without hesitation,” Ms Nicolic said.

    Col Beltrame was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was later awarded the Cross for Military Valour for his peacekeeping work. On his return to France, Col Beltrame joined the country’s Republican Guard and was tasked with protecting the presidential palace.

    In 2017, he was named deputy chief of the Gendarmerie Nationale in the French region of Aude.

Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan president, detained in Germany

Catalonia’s ex-leader Carles Puigdemont has been detained by German police acting on a European arrest warrant.

Mr Puigdemont, who is wanted in Spain for sedition and rebellion, was held crossing from Denmark on the way to Belgium, his lawyer said.

Mr Puigdemont had been on a visit to Finland since Thursday.

He has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since Catalonia’s parliament unilaterally declared independence from Spain in October.

The charges of rebellion and sedition that Mr Puigdemont faces in Spain could result in 30 years in prison.

He slipped out of Finland on Friday before authorities could arrest him.

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    “The president was going to Belgium to put himself, as always, at the disposal of Belgian justice,” his spokesman Joan Maria Pique said.

    German police said that Mr Puigdemont was detained by a highway patrol in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark.

    Tensions in Catalonia are very high and its separatist leaders abandoned plans to name a new president following the arrest of the latest candidate, Jordi Turull, on Friday.

    Crowds of protesters had clashed with police in Barcelona on Friday night after Spain’s Supreme Court ruled 25 Catalan leaders should be tried for rebellion, embezzlement or disobeying the state. Mr Turull was among five people taken into custody in fresh arrests.

    The rulings were considered the most serious challenge to date to the Catalan independence movement. Almost the entire leadership now faces a major legal fight.

    Following the referendum, the central government in Madrid sacked the Catalan regional government, imposed direct rule and called new elections but pro-independence parties returned with a slim majority.

    International warrants for Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders were withdrawn in December by a Spanish judge, who said they had shown a willingness to return to the country.

    The warrants were reactivated on Friday, surprising Mr Puigdemont, who had been in Finland to give a university lecture.

    Among those wanted is Catalonia’s former education minister, Clara Ponsati. She is in Scotland, where she has a position at the University of St Andrews.

    Who is Carles Puigdemont?

    Carles Puigdemont, 55, is a former journalist who worked for pro-independence media in Catalonia and headed the Catalan News Agency.

    After moving to politics, he became an MP and later mayor of Girona, north-east of Barcelona.

    In 2016, he became leader of Catalonia and led the region to the referendum the following year.

    During his self-imposed exile following the resulting crisis, Mr Puigdemont told Belgian TV he was not hiding from “real justice” but from the “clearly politicised” Spanish legal system.

    How we got here

    1 October 2017: The independence referendum takes place in Catalonia

    27 October: Catalonia’s leaders declare independence, which leads to the Spanish government imposing direct rule on the region and dissolving its parliament

    30 October: Charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds are brought against various sacked members of the Catalan government, including Mr Puigdemont

    2 November: Several former Catalan ministers are taken into custody in Spain

    3 November: European Arrest Warrants are issued against Mr Puigdemont and four of his allies, who have all fled to Belgium

    5 December: A Spanish judge withdraws the European arrest warrants but says the group still face possible charges for sedition and rebellion

    21 December: Carles Puigdemont is re-elected to parliament during Catalan’s regional elections – which Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy had called to “restore democracy”

    1 March 2018: Mr Puigdemont says he is stepping aside to allow detained activist Jordi Sanchez to run as Catalonia’s president

    21 March: Mr Sanchez drops his leadership bid and instead the candidacy is passed to Jordi Turull

    23 March: Mr Turull and various others are arrested in Spain, and the European arrest warrants are reactivated

Eurovision: First winner Lys Assia dies aged 94

The first person to win the Eurovision Song Contest, Lys Assia, has died at the age of 94, competition organisers have announced.

She took the prize for Switzerland in 1956, with the song Refrain, and went on to perform in two more contests.

Lys Assia died on Saturday at the Zollikerberg Hospital in Zurich.

Eurovision described her as the “first lady” of the competition, and said it planned further tributes to her in the coming days.

Assia’s triumph in the first-ever Eurovision came in Lugano, Switzerland. She finished eighth in the 1957 contest but achieved more success a year later, coming second with her song, Giorgio.

Born in Rupperswil, northern Switzerland, in 1924, she began her career as a dancer before turning to singing.

Her association with Eurovision was long-lasting and in 2005 she performed in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

At the age of 87 she decided to return to the contest and tried – unsuccessfully – to represent Switzerland in 2012 and 2013.

Her death closely follows that of former Eurovision host Katie Boyle, who died at her home in the UK aged 91 last week.

Arnaud Beltrame: France lauds policeman who swapped with hostage

Tributes are pouring in for a French police officer who died saving the lives of hostages in a supermarket siege by an Islamist gunman on Friday.

Lt-Col Arnaud Beltrame, 44, was shot and stabbed after he traded places with one of the captives following a shooting spree in southern France.

Flags are being flown at half-mast at gendarmerie bases across France.

His brother Cedric said Col Arnaud “didn’t have a chance”, adding that his actions were “beyond the call of duty”.

“He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would,” Col Arnaud’s brother Cedric told a French radio station on Saturday.

Speaking to the BBC, Col Arnaud’s cousin Florence Nicolic described the officer as a person who was “so good at his job”.

“Even though we were surprised and shocked when we heard what happened we were not surprised in the sense that that’s the thing he would do without hesitation,” Ms Nicolic said.

French President Emmanuel Macron also paid tribute to the officer, saying that Col Arnaud “fell as a hero” after showing “exceptional courage and selflessness”, adding that he deserved “the respect and admiration of the whole nation”.

UK PM Theresa May said the “sacrifice and courage” of the police officer would not be forgotten.

His actions helped bring an end to the siege that left three people dead.

The radical Islamist gunman, 25-year-old Redouane Lakdim, was eventually shot and killed by police.

Sixteen people were injured, two seriously, in what Mr Macron called an act of “Islamist terrorism”.

Lakdim was said to have demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Prosecutors are reportedly questioning two people in connection with the attacks, one of whom is thought to be the gunman’s partner while the other is believed to be a friend.

How will Col Beltrame be remembered?

Col Beltrame was a highly-regarded member of the Gendarmerie Nationale and was described by France’s president on Saturday as someone who “fought until the end and never gave up”.

He graduated in 1999 from France’s leading military academy in Saint Cyr and in 2003 became one of just a handful of candidates chosen to join the gendarmerie’s elite security response group GSIGN.

He was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and was later awarded the Cross for Military Valour for his peacekeeping work. On his return to France, Col Beltrame joined the country’s Republican Guard and was tasked with protecting the presidential palace.

In 2017, he was named deputy chief of the Gendarmerie Nationale in the French region of Aude, home to the medieval town of Carcassonne, where Lakdim began his deadly shooting spree on Friday.

As recently as December, Col Beltrame took part in a simulated terror attack on a local supermarket in the region.

Col Beltrame becomes the seventh member of France’s security forces to be killed in such attacks since 2012.

What led up to Friday’s siege?

The violence began on Friday morning in Carcassonne, where Lakdim hijacked a car. He killed a passenger – whose body was later found hidden in a bush – and injured the driver.

He then shot at a group of policemen who were out jogging, wounding one of them.

Lakdim is then believed to have driven a short distance to the small town of Trèbes, where he stormed into the Super-U supermarket, shouting, “I am a soldier of Daesh [Islamic State]!”

He killed two people – a customer and a store worker – before seizing others as hostages.

At what point was the officer wounded?

Mr Collomb told reporters on Friday that police officers had managed to get some people out of the supermarket but the gunman had held one woman back as a human shield.

It was at this point, he said, that Col Beltrame had volunteered to swap himself for her.

As he did so, he left his mobile phone on a table with an open line so that police outside could monitor the situation.

When police heard gunshots, a tactical team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed and Col Beltrame was mortally wounded.

After the announcement of his death early on Saturday, France’s Gendarmerie Nationale – a police force part of the military – honoured its fallen “comrade”, saying Col Beltrame “gave his life for the freedom of the hostages”.

What do we know about Redouane Lakdim?

Lakdim, was born in April 1992 in Morocco and had French nationality. He was known to French intelligence services.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said Lakdim had been on an extremist watch-list due to “his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement”, a hardline offshoot of Sunni Islam. However, subsequent investigations by intelligence services had not turned up any signs he would act, he said.

In 2011, Lakdim was found guilty of carrying a prohibited weapon and in 2015 he was convicted for drug use and refusing a court order, Mr Molins said.

Earlier, Mr Collomb said that though Lakdim had been known to authorities as a petty criminal, they “did not think he had been radicalised”.

Lakdim lived in an apartment in Carcassonne with his parents and several sisters. A neighbour saw him taking one of his sisters to school on Friday morning.

The family’s apartment was raided by police on Friday afternoon.