One gendarme has been hailed a hero after volunteering to swap places with a hostage and then using his phone to relay information to police outside.
Armed police have killed a suspect who shot dead three people in a series of attacks in southern France.
The gunman hijacked a car and then took hostages at a supermarket in the town of Trèbes.
The man, named by ministers as 26-year-old Redouane Lakdim, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
He is believed to have killed and wounded his victims in three separate incidents which began in Carcassonne, 15 minutes’ drive from Trèbes.
He was said to have been heavily armed and demanding the release of Salah Abdeslam, the most important surviving suspect in the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.
Earlier, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said that all signs pointed towards a “terrorist act”.
How did events unfold?
The attacker began his spree of attacks on Friday morning in Carcassonne, where he first hijacked a car, killing one passenger – whose body was later found hidden in a bush – and injuring the driver.
He then shot and wounded a policeman who was jogging with colleagues.
The suspect is then believed to have driven a few kilometres to the small town of Trèbes, where he charged into the Super-U supermarket, shouting, “I am a soldier of Daesh [Islamic State]!” and took hostages.
Hundreds of police officers were deployed to the area which was cordoned off.
Carole, who was shopping at the supermarket, said people hid in a cold room.
“A man shouted and fired several times. I saw a cold room door, I asked people to come and take shelter,” she told France info radio.
“There were 10 of us, and we stayed an hour. There were more gunshots and we went out the emergency back door.”
A 45-year-old gendarme volunteered to swap himself for one of the hostages, say reports. He left his phone line open during the operation so police could monitor the situation, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters.
When police heard gunshots on the phone line, an elite Swat team stormed the supermarket. The gunman was killed.
The gendarme, a lieutenant-colonel – whose “heroism and courage” was hailed by by Mr Collomb – was seriously injured. A member of the Swat team was also hurt.
What do we know about the suspect?
Redouane Lakdim, reportedly from a Moroccan background, was known to French intelligence services, said Mr Collomb.
“He was known for petty crimes,” including small-time drug-dealing, he said. “We had monitored him and thought there was no radicalisation,” he said.
“Very active on Salafist social networks, he was incarcerated in Carcassonne in 2016, but we still do not know why,” reports Le Parisien. Salafism is a hardline offshoot of Sunni Islam.
“Moreover, he was suspected of making a trip to Syria, but nothing is sure yet.”
He lived in an apartment in Carcassonne with his parents and several sisters – one of whom a neighbour saw him taking to school on Friday morning.
That apartment has now reportedly been raided by police.
What has the reaction been?
In a statement released online, Islamic State claimed the attacker was “a soldier of the Islamic State”.
Mr Macron is at an EU summit in Brussels, but said he would return to oversee the response to the attack.
Counter-terrorism prosecutors are leading the investigation.
France has been hit with several deadly jihadist attacks since 2015 and has been on high alert since. A state of emergency put in place after the 2015 attacks in Paris was lifted in October.
In February, Salah Abdeslam went on trial in Belgium over a shootout in Brussels that led to his capture months after the Paris attacks. He is not expected to go on trial in France until 2020 at the earliest.
Major terror attacks in France
- 1 Oct 2017 – Two women stabbed to death at Marseille railway station; attack claimed by IS
- 26 Jul 2016 – Two attackers slit priest’s throat at his church in Normandy; shot dead by police
- 14 Jul 2016 – Huge lorry mows down crowd on Nice beachfront, killing 86. IS claims attack by Tunisian-born driver, later shot dead by police
- 13 Jun 2016 – Police officer and his partner stabbed to death at home in Magnanville, west of Paris, by a jihadist declaring allegiance to IS – police later kill him
- 13 Nov 2015 – IS jihadists attack Paris, targeting the national stadium, cafes and Bataclan concert hall, leaving 130 dead
- 7-9 Jan 2015 – Two Islamist gunmen storm the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 17 people. Another Islamist militant kills a policewoman the next day and takes hostages at a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Four hostages are killed before police shoot the gunman dead. The other two gunmen are cornered and killed by police in a siege.