France supermarket attacker pledged to "die for Syria"

CARCASSONNE, France (Reuters) - Just hours before killing three people and terrorizing shoppers in a supermarket in southern France, 25-year old Redouane Lakdim took his younger sister to school, French media said, leaving his family’s flat outside Carcassonne’s medieval city walls.

Lakdim, a French national born in Morrocco, was known by police for petty crimes and possession of drugs - for which he spent one month in jail in 2016.

French interior minister Gerard Collomb said nothing suggested he was violent: “We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalisation,” Collomb said. “He was known for possession of drugs, we couldn’t have said that he was a radical that would carry out an attack.”

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said although nothing suggested imminent action, Lakdim had been on France’s terrorism watch list since 2014 and had links to networks of Salafists.

Survivors of the supermarket siege said he shouted “Allahu Akbar” and identified himself as a supporter of Islamic State willing to die for Syria.

He lived with his mother and sisters, a neighbor told Reuters, in a charmless social housing block outside Carcassonne’s famed walled city, a UNESCO heritage site.

“It was a calm family,” a 17-year old girl who lives in the same building told Reuters, declining to give her name.

Although the area was recently renovated, like many of the poor neighborhoods that ring French cities it still suffers from crime. Local newspapers had recently reported a playground had been set on fire. On Friday, gangs of youths threatened journalists seeking reactions from locals.

Neighbors said Lakdim was a regular visitor to the Carcassonne mosque. Recent mug shots showed him sporting a long black beard.

On Friday morning, after stealing a white Opel Corsa, killing the passenger and injuring its owner, he drove towards a nearby military barracks where he waited a few minutes, the prosecutor said.

Changing target, he headed towards the riot police’s garrison, where he shot at four officers jogging outside, before driving away.

Storming into a supermarket in the nearby town of Trebes, he shouted “God is Greatest” and shot dead a customer and an employee before taking the other 50-or-so shoppers hostage.

During his standoff with police, he briefly came out of the supermarket, threatening to “blow everything up”, the prosecutor said.

When he started shooting at a gendarme who had swapped himself with a female hostage, anti-terrorism police launched the assault in which he was killed.

Writing by Michel Rose in Paris; Editing by John Irish and Peter Graff