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HE DIED FOR HIS COUNTRY

 

 

“Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame has passed away. He died for his country. France will never forget his heroism.” Those poignant words were expressed by the French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb on his Twitter account on Saturday 24th March, following the tragic announcement that the brave French police officer, Arnaud Beltrame, had indeed lost his life. Yet another brutal act of callous Islamic terrorism had been perpetrated, this time in the small town of Trèbes. Putting the safety of others before his own, the fearless police officer had set out to rescue terrified hostages who were being held in a supermarket by a lone gunman. Although the terrorist was killed and hostages were freed, there was a price to pay. Arnaud Beltrame was fatally wounded by the hostage-taker and died, a national hero, some hours later.

 

 

 

Arnaud Beltrame was no ordinary policeman. He had graduated from France’s leading military academy in Saint Cyr in 1999 and had then been selected to join GSIGN – the elite security response group. After serving in Iraq in 2005, he was awarded the Cross for Military Valour for his peacekeeping work. He had then joined France’s Republican guard and was responsible for protecting the presidential palace. Only last year he was named deputy chief of the Gendarmerie Nationale in the region of Aude and was much-respected by his colleagues. Lieutenant-Colonel Beltrame had married his wife Marielle under civil law but was planning a church ceremony on the 9th June this year. The priest who would have conducted the ceremony was called to his bedside to administer the last rites and to marry the couple as Arnaud’s life tragically slipped away. Surgeons worked hard through the night to save him, but sadly their efforts were in vain.

 

 

 

The trouble all began on the Friday morning in Carcassonne when a 25 year-old Islamic gunman, identified as Redouane Lakdim, hijacked a car, killing one of the occupants and wounding another. He drove the vehicle a short distance to the small town of Trèbes, shooting at a group of policeman on the way. Entering the Super U supermarket, he shot a customer and a store worker dead before rounding up hostages. The store manager, Samia Menassi, was in her office when she heard the sound of gunfire. Quickly she called for the police and then raced downstairs to evacuate the building. The lone jihadist was screaming “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Greater) and had proudly identified himself as a soldier of the Islamic State. When police arrived and realized what was taking place, they brought in Ladkim’s mother – hoping she might persuade her son to abandon his mission of destruction. Police officers were able to get some people out of the building, but the gunman was using a female store worker as a human shield. Colonel Beltrame persuaded the gunman to allow him to take her place. The officer had the presence of mind to leave his mobile phone, switched on, on a nearby table so that his colleagues could monitor developments. When they heard gunfire, the supermarket was stormed by officers and the gunman killed. Col Beltrame was found to have had his throat slashed, and he had been shot.

 

 

 

Speaking after the tragedy, his brother Cedric said, “He gave his life for strangers. He must have known that he didn’t really have a chance. If that doesn’t make him a hero, I don’t know what would.” The 40 year-old checkout assistant, Julie, was utterly distraught after the experience, but she knew that Colonel Beltrame had saved her life. Four had been killed by Ladkim, fifteen others injured. Inside the supermarket were three homemade explosive devices, a handgun, and a hunting knife. Clearly the jihadist had intended to take more lives. At his home were found notes referring to the Islamic State and what appeared to be a last testament.

 

 

 

France has suffered more than its share of such atrocities from agents of destruction. As his brother stated, Arnaud Beltrame was a hero. He faced the evil and ended up sacrificing his own life. Does this not remind us of another sacrifice? The words, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) often come to mind when an act of immense courage is witnessed. The speaker of those words was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was to die for our salvation. Will we accept what He has done for helpless and hopeless people?