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Arnaud Beltrame

A true French hero: Visitors continue to pay homage to Arnaud Beltrame

When the mayor of Montfermeil, a small village in France, commemorated the memory of Arnaud Beltrame, a police officer who was killed after he offered himself up to a jihadist hostage-taker in exchange for a female victim, there was outrage from leftists and Muslims.

Published: July 29, 2018, 1:52 pm

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    A marble plaque in Beltrame’s honor read: “Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, officer of the Gendarmerie, 1973-2018, dead hero, victim of Islamist terrorism.”

    But Muslim groups and far-left politicians expressed outrage that the plaque made reference to Islam.

    Angélique Planet-Ledieu of the Left Front said: “The mayor continues his provocations and inscribes in marble his vision of a religious war.”

    The gunman, a 26-year-old Moroccan citizen named Redouane Lakdim, however was the individual who had continued the religious war by taking hostages at a supermarket in Trèbes on March 23 and demanded the release from prison of Salah Abdeslam, one of the participants in the Paris terror attacks in November 2015.

    Five people, including Beltrame, died in the Trèbes attack. After a three-hour stand-off, the terrorist shot and decapitated Beltrame.

    “These terrorists have nothing to do with me or with Islam,” says Boubaker Abassi, a 72-year-old Muslim about the plaque. Members of the Montfermeil Muslims Association also complained: “We would have preferred that it be written victim of terrorism, or Daesh, but not the term Islam”. The association issued a statement asking the mayor to withdraw the term, but the mayor Xavier Lemoine ignored their request.

    Lemoine does not want to discuss it, he says. “I’ve already said that, and I do not want to add anything. I’m afraid that the controversy is counterproductive for those who defend it,” said the elected representative.

    Lemoine says he contacted Marielle [Beltrame], the widow of the colonel, for this tribute and she agreed.

    “There are always comings and goings,” officials noted about the grave of Beltrame in Ferrals-les-Corbières. Despite the time that has passed, the soldier’s grave continue to receive visitors. In spite of the stifling summer heat, the flowers have remained fresh.

    Simple and uncluttered, Colonel Beltrame’s tomb is not even embellished with a tombstone. Only a wooden cross indicates the place. A medal and a rosary surrounds the gilded plaque engraved with the name of the colonel (1973-2018), a member of the UNPRG, a French elite soldier unit.

    Michel from Isère is one of the visitors that have come to pay homage to Colonel Beltrame. “What he has done, sacrifice his life for that of a hostage, deserves the respect of all. I did not come to be zealous, but to show him all the esteem I feel for him. I represent my comrades, members  of the 7th BCA of Varces. This Arnaud Beltrame is a gentleman”. Back to his home, he says he will also visit the graves of Beltrame’s parents buried in Béziers.

    Complete strangers say they prayed at the grave of a soldier who became, despite himself, the face of the ultimate French hero. Even Unites States President Donald Trump qualified him as a “great hero”, the BBC reported at the time of his death.

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