The handler of Diesel, the police dog killed during a raid on a terror suspect’s hideout in Paris last week, revealed on Sunday the canine was only months away from retirement. Speaking to French radio, the officer, who has not been named for security reasons, said he had “absolute confidence” in the seven-year-old Belgian shepherd, who was shot during the assault in the suburb of Saint-Denis.
Diesel was part of the French SWAT team tasked with capturing Paris attack ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud, whose body was found in the wreckage of the building along with two other terror suspects. Another five people were arrested. Some 130 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks in the French capital earlier this month, including a bombing of the national football stadium, and a massacre at a concert theatre.
Reflecting on his partner's service, the officer said: “Both of us knew how the other would behave in the situation," noting that Diesel was sent into the building after gunfire diminished. “When we arrived there were a lot of exchanges of fire and grenades exploding,” the handler said.
“Then it was calm. It was almost abnormal," he added. "After a few minutes we decided to send in the dog... to see if the zone was clear. He did a tour of the first room, then he went into the second room and dashed forward. I think he’d found someone. Then I lost sight of him and the gunfire started again.”
“His role was to open the way for the rest of us,” the officer continued. “He uses all his senses to detect if anyone is present and if he can get to them, to go and bite them. If not, he stands and barks to indicate where the person is hiding.”
Diesel was part of France’s Research, Assistance, Intervention and Deterrence anti-terrorist force, which boasts 15 dogs. Some are trained to sniff out explosives, others are attacks dogs trained to bite assailants. Diesel, who had served with the unit for five years, was the first dog to die on active duty.
This weekend, the Russian government honoured Diesel by offering to send a puppy to France as “a sign of solidarity.” Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Russia’s interior minister, penned a letter to his French counterpart offering the dog, who is named after Russian folk legend Dobrynya Nikitch, "the embodiment of the forces of good, military prowess and selfless assistance."
Following Diesel’s death, the hashtag #JeSuisChien trended worldwide as people offered tribute to the fallen assault dog.