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Gunman attacks French supermarket, kills three

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TREBES — A gunman has killed three people in southwestern France on Friday as he held up a car, fired on police and seized hostages in a supermarket, screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ before security forces stormed the building and killed him, authorities said.Sixteen other people were wounded, including two who were seriously hurt, in what President Emmanuel Macron called an act of ‘Islamist terrorism’.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Macron said security services were checking that claim.

“I want to tell the nation tonight of my absolute determination in leading this fight,” said Macron, who returned to Paris from Brussels to chair a crisis meeting with ministers and security officials.

More than 240 people have been killed in France in attacks since 2015 by assailants who pledged allegiance to Islamic State or were inspired by the group.

Friday’s attacker was identified by authorities as Redouane Lakdim, 25, from the city of Carcassonne.

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Two people were killed when he attacked the supermarket in the nearby small town of Trebes. Witnesses said about 20 people in the supermarket found refuge in its cold storage room.

A lieutenant-colonel of the gendarmes who swapped himself in exchange for one of the hostages was fighting for his life in hospital, Macron said.

Moroccan-born Lakdim was known to authorities for petty crimes, but had been under surveillance by security services in 2016-2017 for links to the radical Salafist movement, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins, who is leading the investigation.

“The monitoring … did not reveal any apparent signs that could lead (us) to foresee he would act,” Molins said.

He said one woman connected to Lakdim had been arrested.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters at the scene that he believed Lakdim had acted alone.

“Every day we detect facts and foil new attacks. Alas, this one struck without us being able to counter it,” Collomb said.

Lakdim first killed one person with a bullet in the head while stealing a car in Carcassonne, a walled city with a medieval citadel that is one of France’s top tourist attractions.

He pulled up in the car to four police officers who were jogging in the city and opened fire, hitting one in the shoulder, then sped off to Trebes, about 8 km (5 miles) to the east, where he took the hostages in the supermarket.

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“The perpetrator entered the store shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and indicated that he was an Islamic State soldier who was ready to die for Syria, seeking the release of brothers, before shooting at a client and a store employee who died on the spot,” Molins said.

Police were carrying out searches at Lakdim’s family home.

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China conduct live fire drill along southeast coastline

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BEIJING — China’s military has conducted live-fire drills along the southeast coastline, state television reported, but it was unclear if these were the same exercises that had been flagged as taking place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

The government had said the drills would happen on Wednesday off the city of Quanzhou, in between two groups of islands close to China’s coast but that Taiwan has controlled since 1949 when defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of the Chinese civil war.

Chinese state media has said the drills were a direct response to “provocations” by Taiwan leaders related to what China fears are moves to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence. China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory.

Late on Wednesday, Chinese state television showed footage of helicopters firing missiles during an exercise it said was happening on China’s southeast coast.

State television only showed pictures of helicopters, with no mention of ships or other military equipment such as tanks or amphibious assault vehicles.

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The exercises took place from 8 a.m. (0000GMT) until midnight, the report said, giving the same time frame for the previously announced drills in the Taiwan Strait.

The Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the exercise, and whether it was the same ones previously reported to be happening in the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan on Wednesday denounced the exercises, saying Beijing was using “cheap verbal intimidation and saber rattling” to threaten the island.

Taiwan is one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. China has ramped up military exercises around Taiwan in the past year, including flying bombers around the island.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Wednesday afternoon two Chinese H-6K bombers had flown around the island, passing first through the Miyako Strait to Taiwan’s northeast and then back to base via the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The latest Chinese military movements come during a time of heightened tension between Beijing and the island and follows strong warnings by Chinese President Xi Jinping against Taiwan separatism last month.

China claims Taiwan as its own and considers it a breakaway province.

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