TREBES, France (AFP) — French police have killed a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State who shot dead at least three people and injured two others in a hostage-taking and shooting spree in southwest France, security sources said.
A policeman involved in the freeing of all of the hostages at the Super U supermarket in the town of Trebes was injured during the operation to kill the gunman, the source added, asking not to be named.
The gunman was apparently involved in a spree of attacks Friday around the city of Carcassonne in southwest France.
The man first hijacked a car in Carcassonne on Friday morning, killing a passenger and injuring the driver, the sources told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He then shot at a group of policemen nearby, leaving one of the officers injured, before driving to the nearby town of Trebes where he killed two people and injured another at a Super U supermarket, the sources said
Police had been negotiating with the unnamed hostage-taker who remained holed up in the Super U store in the town of Trebes after he burst in at around 11:15 a.m. (1015 GMT). They later stormed the shop, killing him.
French investigators suspect the gunman is a Moroccan man who had been flagged as a potential extremist, a security source said.
A witness reported that the assailant was armed with knives, a gun and grenades and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest) before going into the supermarket.
“Most of the Super U staff and customers managed to get away,” said a security source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
Fifteen minutes before the supermarket incident in Trebes, a policeman was shot in the nearby town of Carcassonne while out jogging with several colleagues.
He was in a stable condition, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
Police traced the car involved in the shooting in Carcassonne to the hostage-taking in Trebes after it was found in the car park of the supermarket, a security source told AFP.
France still on high alert
The shootings come with France still on high alert after a string of jihadist attacks since 2015.
The terror attacks in France started in January 2015 with the assault on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
France also suffered major attacks in Paris in November 2015 when IS jihadists killed 130 people in bombings and shootings at bars, restaurants, the Bataclan concert venue and the national stadium.
In July 2016, in another attack claimed by IS, a man drove a truck through revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the Riviera resort of Nice, killing 84 people.
A state of emergency put in place just after the Paris attacks was finally lifted in October last year, but soldiers continue to patrol major tourist sites and transport hubs under an anti-terror mission.
If the link to Islamic State is confirmed, the hostage-taking would be the first deadly attack in France since October, when two young women were stabbed to death outside Marseille’s main train station.
The area of southwest France where Friday’s shootings took place has been scarred by Islamic extremism before.
In 2012, Mohamed Merah shot dead seven people including three Jewish schoolchildren in nearby Toulouse and Montauban.