One police officer has been shot and wounded in Trebes, France, and the gunman has taken hostages inside a grocery story. Counterterrorism investigators have assumed command of the situation amid reports that the gunman has pledged loyalty to ISIS. However, as ABC’s Terry Moran reports, it also appears that at least some hostages have been released:
— ABC News (@ABC) March 23, 2018
French counterterrorism prosecutors are taking charge of the investigation into the shooting of a police officer in southern France that has led to an apparent hostage-taking at a supermarket. …
There are unconfirmed media reports that the assailant claimed connections to the Islamic State group.
The Independent reports that two other people inside the market have been wounded, while the prime minister proclaimed the situation “very serious”:
The UNSA police union said on Twitter that a police operation was underway after an individual had earlier shot at four officers in the Carcassone region – a short drive from Trèbes – injuring one of them.
Two people inside the Super U supermarket have suffered bullet wounds, the mayor of Trèbes told the French BFM TV channel.
Interior minister spokesman Frederic Delanouvelle told AP there was one suspect and that police were trying to subdue him.
The Daily Mail has a more colorful account of the situation:
A suspected ISIS gunman has killed one person after taking hostages at a French supermarket amid claims he was heard shouting ‘vengeance for Syria’.
Shots were heard after the man stormed into a Super U at around 11.15am in the town of Trebes, south west France while ‘pledging allegiance’ to the terror group.
A source in the town claimed that a butcher in the supermarket was shot dead while there were also reports that the gunman, in his 30s, was carrying grenades.
A little farther down, the article notes that the ISIS pledge has not yet been independently confirmed. Details in these kinds of situations are usually provided second-hand and are sketchy at best. It takes quite a while for facts to be confirmed, so don’t be surprised if some of the details in the above reports change or get contradicted later.
On the other hand …
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) March 23, 2018
As reported, though, this seems like a strange kind of ISIS operation. It appears to be more of a lone-wolf attack, having started with gunfire on police jogging on the road and then finding a target of opportunity with the market. Besides, ISIS is (at the moment) a spent force. They have bigger problems on their hands, such as avoiding the various armies of Kurds, Turks, Syrians, Russians, and US forces looking to either wipe them out or create a crossfire in which they’ll get killed.
This might be the first wave of returnees wreaking havoc on their own, assuming that the detail of an ISIS pledge is accurate. If so, it will renew the debate in Western nations as to how to deal with ISIS recruits after their collapse in Syria and Iraq. Radical Islamic terrorism has already been a large problem in France, as Moran points out, but in the long run the fall of ISIS should help reduce that threat. In the short run, there are still enough lunatics and dead-enders to create headaches, and that may well be what France is dealing with in Trebes today.
Update: French police tell the media that two people have been killed:
BREAKING: French police say 2 killed, about a dozen wounded in supermarket hostage-taking in southern France.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 23, 2018
One hostage in the store is reportedly another police officer. It’s not clear who the two deaths include yet.
Update: A police officer tells the AP that only one death has been confirmed:
Yves Lefebvre of the French police union tells the AP that the gunman shot and killed 1 person as he entered the supermarket, and left 1 other person in life-threatening condition https://t.co/LjIkIDkdTc pic.twitter.com/GebCmEU1Hp
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 23, 2018
The gunman has made a demand, according to CBS. He’d better be prepared for disappointment, and prepare quickly too:
BFMTV said, according to a witness, that the the hostage-taker declared himself, “a soldier of the Islamic State,” and the mayor of Trebes told another channel that the suspect had entered the store screaming, “Allahu Akbar, (God is the greatest) I’ll kill you all.”
According to BFMTV, the suspect had been identified by French law enforcement, and that he was known to them. The station said the gunman was demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the group accused of attacking a concert venue and other locations in Paris in the November 2015 attacks which left 130 people dead.
As CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, the French police were unlikely to spend much time trying to talk down a suspected terrorist, so while the incident remained officially underway, it was unlikely to drag on for long.
In other words, police are just finalizing their tactical set-up. They’re not interested in capturing him unless he surrenders. They want to put an end to this tout suite.
Update: As expected …
#BREAKING Gunman in French hostage-taking killed by police: security source
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 23, 2018