Slain French attack hero honored in grand national tribute

Macron delivered a patriotic public eulogy calling for national solidarity after last week’s attack

PARIS: The slain hero of last week’s extremist attack in southern France was honoured Wednesday in an elaborate, daylong national homage led by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The tribute came as questions were raised about possible failures by French counterterrorism officials in tracking the gunman, who was on a radicalisation watch list before he went on a rampage on Friday.

The coffin of Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame was driven through the morning drizzle in a procession across Paris from the Pantheon to the Hotel des Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon. Macron delivered a patriotic public eulogy calling for national solidarity after last week’s attack, which together with myriad other extremist attacks on French soil have claimed over 200 lives since 2015.

Beltrame symbolised “the spirit of French resistance,” Macron said.

Beltrame died of his wounds Saturday morning, hours after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket near the city of Carcassonne.

“We will prevail thanks to the resilience of the French… We will win by the cohesion of a united nation,” he added.

After inspecting troops at the monument as a military band played a stirring rendition of the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, Macron posthumously awarded Beltrame the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award.

Two former presidents, Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, also attended.

The tribute provided a national focal point for grief, even as questions were growing about possible mistakes made by the French security services regarding Beltrame’s killer, Redouane Lakdim.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb confirmed Wednesday that French security services were poised to reduce the surveillance on Lakdim, who had since 2014 been on a radicalisation watch list, ahead of the extremist attack.

But Collomb maintained there were no “dysfunctions” in the tracking of Lakdim, who also killed three other people before he was shot dead by police.

Speaking on France Inter, Collomb said “ultimately no one thought that there would be a hasty attack” by Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality.

Moroccan authorities have also questioned France’s handling of Lakdim’s case.

The chief of a counterterrorism agency known as Morocco’s FBI said Tuesday that France never alerted his country about Lakdim’s radical behaviour — calling the absence of contact “a misunderstanding.”

Since the attack, the agency — created three years ago to consolidate counterterrorism efforts — has been investigating Lakdim’s family members in Morocco, Abdelhak Khiame told The Associated Press

Lakdim visited Morocco several times, most recently in February 2012, before the establishment of Daesh, Khiame added.

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