What we know about the gunman in France

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Paris (AFP)

The gunman who killed three people in southwest France on Friday before being shot dead by police was a 25-year-old small-time drug dealer with a history of minor crimes.

The rap sheet against Redouane Lakdim, a French citizen born in Morocco according to sources close to the inquiry, eventually drew deeper scrutiny by investigators worried he was at risk of Islamic radicalisation.

In the summer of 2014 Lakdim, who lived in Carcassone, was added to a watchlist of people considered possible extremists.

"He was added to the list because of his radicalisation and his links with the Salafist movement" of ultra-conservative Islamism, Francois Molins, France's top anti-terror prosecutor, said at a press conference in Carcassonne.

He was found guilty of carrying a prohibited weapon in 2011 and later for drug use and refusing a court order in 2015, Molins said.

"In 2016 then in 2017 he was the subject of an investigation by intelligence services, an investigation which did not bring to light any sign that would indicate he would carry out a terrorist act," he said.

But when entering the Super U supermarket in nearby Trebes on Friday, Lakdim shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and declared he was ready to die for Syria, and demanded the freedom for his brothers" before shooting a killing a client and an employee, Molins said.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that Lakdim lived with his parents, and quoted a neighbour saying he had dropped off one of his little sisters at school on Friday morning.

Another neighbour contacted by the paper described him as a "calm" and "nice" person who "always had a kind word to say", adding that he regularly attended a mosque.

- String of deadly attacks -

Lakdim's trajectory appears to have followed a grimly familiar pattern in France over recent years of young men progressing from petty crimes into terrorism, often despite surveillance by the authorities.

Since the January 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in Paris by two men claiming allegiance to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, more than 240 people have been killed in jihadist attacks.

A few days later Amedy Coulibaly stormed a Jewish supermarket in Paris, taking hostages and killing four people before being killed by police.

All three men had a history of extremism and were known to French intelligence, with Coulibaly first meeting one of the Charlie Hebdo attackers while in prison.

And in the deadliest attack, at the Stade France and the Bataclan concert hall and nearby bars in November 2015, ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving commando member, had both served time for robbery around 2011.

A string of deadly gun and knife attacks has followed, and Interior Minister Gerard Collomb has said dozens of others have been thwarted by police as the government stepped up anti-terror measures.

In Carcassonne itself, police had arrested a 22-year-old man in June 2016 on suspicion of planning to target American and Russian tourists, after months of surveillance.

"The acts carried out today sadly remind us once more, tragically, that the terrorist threat level on our territory has not lessened," Molins said.

"Now mainly internal, it is first of all the result of radicalised individuals living in our country," he said.