Ahmed Merabet is reportedly a Muslim whose parents came from North Africa
The Charlie Hebdo attackers shot him in the head as he lay wounded in the street
Ahmed has joined Charlie in the social media tributes to victims of the Paris terrorist attack this week.
The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie – “I am Charlie” – became an international rallying point for people expressing solidarity with the victims of the slaughter carried out by gunmen at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday.
But another hashtag, #JeSuisAhmed, has become a poignant way of honoring Ahmed Merabet, a 40-year-old police officer who was killed by the terrorists.
During the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the gunmen claimed that they were avenging the Prophet Mohammed by attacking a magazine that had repeatedly lampooned Islam and other religions.
But by killing Merabet, they took the life of a man who was reported to be a Muslim. Like the parents of the two main suspects in the attack, Merabet’s mother and father are believed to have moved to Paris from North Africa.
’I died defending his right’
“I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so,” wrote the Twitter user Dyab Abou Jahjah.
By Friday morning Paris time, his tweet, using the #JeSuisAhmed hashtag, had been retweeted more than 17,000 times.
Many more tributes to Merabet poured in on the hashtag.
Alongside it, some people tweeted a quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Others simply said thank you to the fallen officer.
’It was his job, it was his duty’
Even before Merabet’s name and background became public, many people knew how he died because of a widely circulated video from Wednesday’s attack.
He was on patrol near the Charlie Hebdo offices when the attackers burst out.
“He was on foot, and came nose to nose with the terrorists. He pulled out his weapon. It was his job, it was his duty,” Rocco Contento, a police union representative, told the Guardian.
The video from the scene shows Merabet twisting in pain on the ground after already being shot once. As the gunmen move toward him, he raises his hands, indicating surrender.
French media reported that one of the gunmen asked the wounded officer, “Do you want to kill us?”
Merabet is heard in the video crying out, “No! It’s OK, boss.”
That’s when one of the gunmen shoots him at point blank range in the head.
Likable, always smiling, colleague says
Contento described Merabet as a quiet, conscientious man – likable and always smiling. A photo shows him grinning into the camera.
He had a girlfriend, according to Contento.
Merabet had reportedly been a police officer for eight years, assigned to the 11th arrondissement, where the attack took place.
He was working as a bicycle cop, but French newspaper Le Figaro reported that he’d recently qualified to become a detective.
Other slain officer was protecting editor
Merabet wasn’t the only police officer killed in the attack. The other was Franck Brinsolaro, who had been assigned to protect Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, for the past several years, according to Le Figaro.
Brinsolaro, 48, was killed inside the magazine’s offices with Charbonnier and other cartoonists.
Le Figaro reported that the police officer had just got married to a woman with whom he had a 1-year-old daughter.
“The whole of France needs to take action,” said Brinsolaro’s twin brother, Philippe, according to the newspaper. “You can’t attack freedom of expression and the authority of the state like that.”
On social media, Franck Brinsolaro, like Ahmed and the staff of Charlie, was also being remembered – through the hashtag #JeSuisFranck.
CNN’s Randi Kaye contributed to this report.