Memorial for French terror attack victims

Hundreds of friends, family and local officials have attended a memorial service in Trebes to honour the victims of the Islamist militant attack that killed a gendarme and three other people in southwest France.

Gendarme Arnaud Beltrame, 44, who voluntarily took the place of a female hostage during the supermarket siege on Friday in the tranquil town near the Pyrenees mountains, received a special tribute for what French President Emmanuel Macron described as a heroic act.

Mr Beltrame died on Saturday after being shot during the siege. Other victims were a wine-grower who had been in a car the attacker stole in Carcassonne, as well as a butcher and a shopper at the supermarket.

"A life given cannot be lost. It transcends misfortune to rally us in unity, it calls us to believe in life stronger than death," regional Carcassonne and Narbonne Bishop Alain Planet said at the ceremony on Sunday, which was also attended by representatives of the police and the Muslim community.

US President Donald Trump emphasised Mr Beltrame's heroic act on Sunday after sharing his "thoughts and prayers" with the victims of the attacks the previous day.

"France honours a great hero. Officer died after bravely swapping places with hostage in ISIS (Islamic State)-related terror attack," he said on Twitter.

Flowers and messages in tribute to Beltrame were placed in front of the gendarmerie of the medieval city of Carcassonne, where he was based. Several cities, the National Assembly and police stations across France flew their flags at half-mast in his honour.

Mr Macron decided on Saturday that France would hold a national tribute to Mr Beltrame in the coming days.

"He fell as a hero, giving up his life to halt the murderous enterprise of a jihadist terrorist," Mr Macron said in a statement shortly before dawn on Saturday.

The attacker was identified by authorities as Radouane Lakdim, a 25-year-old Moroccan-born French national from Carcassonne.

IS on Friday claimed responsibility for the attack.

Several hundred investigators devoted to the inquiry were still checking the claim and looking into possible help Lakdim could have received, Macron's office said.

Searches at the attacker's home on Saturday showed notes referring to IS in what appeared to be a will, as well as a phone and a computer, judicial sources said.

Investigators also found three improvised explosive devices, a 7.65mm handgun and a hunting knife in the supermarket, a source said.

Police were holding two people as part of the investigation: a woman connected to Lakdim and a 17-year-old male said to be one of his friends.

Reuters