France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor says the man shot dead by security services at Orly airport in the south of Paris on Saturday morning was known to police.
The 39-year-old, identified as French-born Zied ben Belgacem, grabbed a solder’s gun at the airport.
France’s interior minister says the man had shot and wounded a police officer during a routine traffic stop north of the French capital earlier on Saturday.
Paris police have confirmed that this is Ziyed Ben Belgacem, the 39 year old French-born suspect in the Orly Airport attack pic.twitter.com/JltNqP6NPk— Joshua Hoyos (@JoshuaHoyos) 18 mars 2017
“The man succeeded in wrestling a soldier to the ground and grabbing her weapon. He was quickly neutralised by the security forces,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Pierre-Henry Brandet told reporters.
No one else was injured at the airport.
The busy Orly airport south of Paris was evacuated. Hundreds of passengers were trapped on flights that had just landed.
Security forces swept the area for bombs to make sure the dead man was not wearing an explosive belt. However, nothing was found.
Were there any witnesses?
Yes, many. One spoke of hearing screams in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“The two soldiers tried to reason with him, they tried to negotiate a bit. Fortunately, it did not go on for long. We quickly heard two gunshots. After that, we heard that they had successfully overpowered him,” said one man who was nearby.
Benoit Roussel was also in the terminal.
“So yeah, we got there, we were about to do the check-in and then some people came running, saying ‘someone is shooting’ so we ran out, we did not know what was happening. We were in panic mode for about half an hour.”
Elisabeth Lefebvre was about to go into the terminal building. She described the scene to reporters: “There were lots of women with children and trolleys who did not know what to do. ‘Run, run, run, don’t stay here, we did not know where to go. Go behind the buses, run, leave, leave. But what is happening? We don’t know, we don’t know.”
Was the man known to police?
Yes, according to Interior Minister Bruno le Roux. He was known to police and the intelligence services.
Officials say he was a radicalised Muslim who was already on the radar of police and intelligence services.
A police source said he was known to police for theft and drug offences.
The man’s father, brother and cousin have been taken into police custody, according to France’s BFM TV.
Paris airport attacker had long criminal record https://t.co/b3xPWu2hYy— The Guardian (@guardian) 18 mars 2017
What will happen now?
France’s Paris-based anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation. Francois Molins said Belgacem’s choice of target and evidence that he had been radicalise justified launching a terrorism inquiry.
Molins also says the attacker:
- Put an air gun to the head of a female soldier and told her colleagues to put down their weapons
- Shouted “I am here to die for Allah. There will be deaths.”
- Threw down a bag containing a can of petrol
- was on probation
- three people are being held in police custody
“He had decided to see things through to the end. From what the soldiers say, he wanted to make use of the weapon to shoot people and kill them. I think this is the initial analysis of this individual’s behaviour,” Molins told reporters.
EN DIRECT – Attaque d'Orly : François Molins, procureur de la République de Paris, s'exprime. pic.twitter.com/uhD03EbNid— Infos Françaises (@InfosFrancaises) 18 mars 2017
Has Orly reopened?
Flights were suspended from both terminals of the airport. Some were diverted to the Charles de Gaulle hub north of the capital.
The airport began to reopen after it was given the security all-clear.
L'opération de sécurité à #Orly est terminée. Les engins de secours ont quitté les lieux. L'aérogare Sud rouvre progressivement.— Ministère Intérieur (@Place_Beauvau) 18 mars 2017
The incident came five weeks before France holds presidential elections in which national security is a key issue.