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A border policeman shot himself dead yesterday 200 meters from where French President Nicolas Sarkozy was getting ready to board a plane ending his trip to Israel.

Bodyguards that heard the shot over the music being played by a band feared it may have been an assassination attempt, and rushed Sarkozy into the plane alongside his wife Carla Bruni, who ran up the stairs ahead of her husband.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres, who came to bid farewell to the French president, were hurried into their bullet-proof vehicles until the origin of the gunshot could be determined.

Shin Bet security service officials immediately ran toward where they had heard the shot, and found the border policeman, who was positioned on top of a building, lying on the ground below. A Magen David Adom team could not resuscitate him and he was declared dead.

Officials soon ruled out the option that he accidentally shot himself before the fall, or that his gun misfired upon impact with the ground, and concluded that he apparently committed suicide using his M-16 rifle, causing him to fall off the building. An autopsy of the body confirmed their conclusion.

Border Police officials said the man, a member of the Druze community, had served as a border policeman for eight years since he was discharged from mandatory service in the Israel Defense Forces. His family asked media not to publish his name.

An investigation personally headed by the police commissioner is being carried out, and the findings are expected to be drawn up in the next few days.