Europe

France police killing: Hollande honours couple stabbed by jihadist

French President Francois Hollande awards posthumously the Legion d"Honneur to Jean-Baptiste Salvaing who was killed by an extremist pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, during a memorial ceremony in Versailles, near Paris, on June 17, 2016. Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Hollande gave the couple posthumous awards

French President Francois Hollande has paid tribute to the police couple murdered this week by a man who pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

Hundreds of police officers stood in front of the coffins of commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and his partner Jessica Schneider, who died on Monday.

Mr Hollande said further measures would be taken to protect police officers.

But when the president filed past the front row, one policeman refused to shake his hand.

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Media captionAs the French president pays tribute to the police force at a ceremony for the police couple murdered by a jihadist, one policeman does not shake his hand.

Hundreds of uniformed police officers and firefighters took part in the ceremony in the prefecture of Versailles, the region where the couple lived and worked.

In an emotional speech, Mr Hollande said Mr Salvaing and Ms Schneider were "everyday heroes" who were killed because they made the "perilous choice" to defend their country.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jessica Schneider was an administrative agent for the police force; Jean-Baptiste Salvaing was a police commander

The pair were posthumously awarded the Legion of Honour.

Mr Hollande promised to take measures to guarantee the anonymity of officers and he said police would be allowed permanently to carry their guns when off duty.

They have been allowed to do so on a temporary basis, since the Paris attacks in November, in which 130 people were killed.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption In a video put online by IS, Larossi Abballa was shown confessing to Monday's killings

"Police and gendarmes must be given the means to defend themselves when they are not on duty," he said, adding: "We must also avoid police and gendarmes being identified and targeted by criminals they have jailed, or their accomplices."

Investigators are looking into whether the couple's attacker, 25-year-old Larossi Abballa, knew his victims.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption President Hollande, flanked by his interior and prime ministers, files past the ranks of police officers

At the ceremony, the president and prime minister moved along the front row, shaking hands with officers but one policeman kept his hand down.

The man looked straight ahead without shaking the president's or prime minister's hands.

'I've had enough'

Mr Hollande moved on, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls was seen engaging the man in brief conversation after his handshake was rejected.

Interviewed on French television channel TF1 afterwards, the police officer, who was not named, said: "There are too many problems in the police. We've had enough."

He said in Mantes-la-Jolie, west of Paris, police had only three vehicles for 40 staff.

Analysts say France's police force has been overstretched because of the security situation after the Paris attacks.

It has also had to deal with months of violent anti-government protests in which dozens of officers have suffered injuries.

Paris police chief Michel Cadot recently wrote to the interior minister, complaining that officers were "exhausted" even before the Euro 2016 football tournament started.

In the past week, forces around France have also had to deal with a minority of violent and heavy-drinking fans, who have fought police and each other.

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