Following a deadly hostage standoff at a supermarket, a gunman in southern France was killed by security forces, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said on Friday.
"The hostage-taker was shot," Collomb told a press conference in the town of Trebes, in the Aude department, at the scene of the hours-long standoff.
Collomb said the gunman, identified as Redouane Lakdim, had killed three people before being taken down. The 26-year-old, from the nearby town of Carcassonne, was known to authorities for petty crimes but there were no signs of radicalization.
He acted alone, Collomb said.
Earlier, the Aude prosecutor said Lakdim claimed to be a “soldier of Daesh,” according to radio station Franceinfo, and after the attack, a website related to the terrorist group claimed responsibility.
Broadcaster BFMTV also said earlier that the attacker had demanded the release of Salah Abdeslam, a suspect in the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks awaiting trial.
Collomb said investigators think Lakdim hijacked a car after leaving Carcassonne and killed one of the people in the hijacked vehicle.
Then Lakdim shot at four police officers jogging in the same town, injuring at least one. He later entered the Super U supermarket around 11 a.m. local time (1046GMT), where he killed two more people.
Collomb also praised the "heroism" of a gendarme, one of the first officers to intervene at the scene of the attack. The 45-year-old lieutenant colonel voluntarily offered to exchange himself for a hostage.
He left his phone line open, allowing the forces outside to follow what was happening inside and intervene.
The gendarme was "seriously injured," according to Collomb.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Premier Edouard Philippe said earlier that the incident bears all the signs of a terrorist attack.
Speaking from the Interior Ministry upon his return to Paris from Brussels, Macron hailed the bravery of the senior police officer who exchanged himself for a hostage, saying he was now "fighting for his life".
Macron said a total of 16 people had been injured in the attacks in Carcassonne and Trebes.
He said security services were looking into claims of responsibility by Daesh terror group, adding that what happened was unquestionably “an Islamist terrorist attack”.
“I want to tell the nation tonight of my absolute determination in leading this fight,” Macron told a press conference with his premier Edouard Philippe by his side.
“I urge our fellow French citizens to remain aware of the terrorist threat, but also to remember the force and resistance our people have demonstrated each and every time they were attacked,” he said.
Suspect on the terror watch list
"I hail the commitment, professionalism and courage of the security forces," Macron tweeted afterwards.
Paris anti-terrorist prosecutors have launched a probe.
In a press conference late Friday, Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins said a female associate of Lakdim had been placed in custody in connection with Friday’s attacks.
He said Lakdim had been on the terror watch list since 2014 and was actively monitored in 2016 and 2017 for possible links to ultra-conservative Salafist movements but that there was no indication he posed an imminent threat.
Lakdim was sentenced in 2011 for weapons possession and for narcotics in March 2015.
Molins praised "the heroism" of the gendarme, named as , Arnaud Beltrame, who "made the choice, to put his life at risk, to choose to take the place of a hostage ".
"It reminds us in a tragic way that the level of threat in our territory has not weakened," he added.
This is the first suspected terrorist incident since Macron lifted a two-year state of emergency last autumn and toughened anti-terror laws.