Slain French attack hero honored with grand national tribute

The slain hero of last week's extremist attack in southern France is being honored in an elaborate, daylong national homage led by French President Emmanuel Macron.

It comes as questions are being raised about possible failures in French counterterrorism tracking of the gunman, who was on a radicalization watch list before he went on a rampage last Friday.

In this image dated March 2013 and provided by regional newspaper Ouest France, Arnaud Beltrame poses for a photo in Avranches, western France. The officer who offered to be swapped for a female hostage was identified as Col. Arnaud Beltrame. He managed to surreptitiously leave his phone on so that police outside could hear what was going on inside the supermarket — and crucially, decide when to storm it. (Ouest France via AP)

Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame died from his injuries after swapping himself for hostages during attack on a supermarket in Trebes in the south of the country.  (AP)

The coffin of Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame was carried in procession in the Wednesday morning drizzle from the Pantheon across Paris to the Hotel des Invalides, the final resting place of Napoleon.

The French president will deliver a public eulogy in front of colleagues and family of Beltrame, who died of his wounds Saturday morning, hours after swapping himself for a hostage during a siege in a supermarket.

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During the ceremony, Macron will posthumously award Beltrame the Legion of Honor, France's highest award.

French President Emmanuel Macron pays his respects to Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame, Wednesday March 28, 2018 at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. The slain hero of last week's extremist attack in southern France will be posthumously awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Emmanuel Macron during a solemn day-long national homage to him. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

French President Emmanuel Macron pays his respects to Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame at the Hotel des Invalides in Paris.  (AP)

Three former presidents, Francois Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Valery Giscard d'Estaing, are also attending in a symbol of the political dimension this ceremony has taken.

The national homage includes a minute's silence in French police stations and myriad events in schools that both honor Beltrame's memory and provide a focal point for national grief after last Friday's killing spree.

Some 2,000 high school students and scores of police attended the Paris event that began as gendarmes sang the French revolutionary anthem the Marseillaise in the stone courtyard of the French Interior Ministry.

The ministry's boss, Gerard Collomb, maintained Wednesday morning that there were no "dysfunctions" in tracking Beltrame's killer, Redouane Lakdim, who also killed three other people before he was shot dead by police.

Police officers escort for the coffin of late Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame before a funeral procession outside the Pantheon in Paris,Wednesday, March 28, 2018. The slain hero of last week's extremist attack in southern France will be posthumously awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Emmanuel Macron Wednesday during a solemn day-long national homage to him.(Etienne Laurent, Pool via AP)

Police officers escort for the coffin of late Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame before a funeral procession outside the Pantheon in Paris  (AP)

Speaking on France Inter, amid questions on possible failures in counterterrorism tracking, Collomb confirmed the security services were about to reduce the surveillance on Lakdim, who was on a radicalization watch list.

He said "ultimately no one thought that there would be a hasty attack" by Lakdim, a Moroccan-born French resident with dual nationality.

Questions have been also raised by authorities in Morocco.

The chief of a counterterrorism agency, known as Morocco's FBI, said Tuesday that France never alerted his country about Lakdim's radical behavior — calling the absence of contact "a misunderstanding."

Since the attack, the agency — created three years ago to consolidate counterterrorism efforts — has been investigating Lakdim's family members in Morocco, Abdelhak Khiame told The Associated Press

Lakdim visited Morocco several times, most recently in February 2012, before the establishment of the Islamic State, Khiame added.