A police officer who was killed after switching places with a hostage during Friday’s terror attack in France was married on his death-bed.
Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame has been hailed a hero after he voluntarily handed himself over to terrorist Redouane Lakdim in exchange for a female store worker during a siege at a supermarket in Trebes.
The 44-year-old officer died in hospital after being shot three times by the radical Islamist in the southwest France town.
It has emerged this morning that Lt Col Beltrame married his partner Marielle hours before his death in a ceremony in the hospital in the city of Carcassonne.
According to reports, the couple had been planning a church wedding in June after they met during a tour of an abbey in France in 2016.
Father Jean-Baptiste said the couple had spent some 30 hours preparing for their marriage ceremony.
He said: "I gave him the sacrament of marriage, and the sacrament of the sick."
A mass is underway in Trebes this morning, paying tribute to the victims of the attack.
Ladkim, 25, was shot dead by police after Lt Col Beltrame left his mobile phone on so colleagues could hear what was happening inside the supermarket.
A national tribute is to take place at a later date for the police officer, who President Emmanuel Macron said had "died a hero" and deserved "the respect and admiration of the whole nation."
The officer's brother, Cedric, said he had given his life "for strangers" and knew he had "almost no chance" of surviving. "he did not hesitate one second," Mr Beltrame told RTL radio.
"He did what needed to be done and thanks to him, many lives were saved and yes, I think the word hero is very appropriate."
The officer's mother, who has not been named, said she was "not surprised" by her son's actions, saying: "He's always been like that."
"It's someone, since he was born, who gives everything for his homeland."
Mr Macron said of Lt Col Beltrame: "In giving his life to end the deadly plan of a jihadi terrorist, he fell as a hero."
The country’s interior minister Gerard Collomb tweeted: "Dead for his country. France will never forget his heroism, bravery and sacrifice."
Samia Menassi, the manager of the supermarket targeted in the attack, said her colleague who was swapped for Lt Col Beltrame during the siege was in a "catastrophic state."
Lt Col Beltrame, who joined France's elite police special forces in 2003 and served in Iraq in 2005, had reportedly organised a training session last December to prepare for hostage situations.
Mr Macron said investigators will focus on establishing how Morocco-born Lakdim obtained his weapon and how he became radicalised.
Lakdim was known to police for petty crimes and drug dealing and had been on a watch list from 2014, according to France's prosecutor Francois Molins, but he was not believed to be preparing any terrorist acts.
Islamic State has claimed the atrocity was in response to its call to target Western enemies.
Lakdim hijacked a car in the city of Carcassonne - seriously wounding the driver and killing the passenger - before driving toward Trebes.
He shot at police officers before hiding in the supermarket, taking several people hostage.
During the resulting stand-off with police, the terrorist demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam - the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in 2015.
Lakdim killed two people before giving up most of the hostages, keeping one woman as a human shield, who Lt Col Beltrame traded places with.
Police have detained a 17-year-old boy, who was allegedly a friend of Lakdim, in connection with the attack.
Another woman who was also allegedly connected to the attacker was taken into custody on Friday.
Additional reporting from IRN ...