A Frenchman with suspected links to radical Islam shot dead at Paris’ Orly airport Saturday morning shouted he wanted to “die for Allah” and tried to seize a female soldier’s assault rifle.
The man, identified as 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, apparently intending to open fire on passengers, a prosecutor said. Two colleagues on patrol with the female soldier shot and killed the man before he could fire the military weapon in the busy airport terminal.
The attack forced the airport’s terminals to shut down and evacuate, while passengers and workers were fleeing in panic and hundreds of others remained aboard flights that had just landed.
Police did not provide a motive for the attack, but the Paris prosecutors office said an investigation is being handled by the anti-terror division. The suspect’s father and brother were detained by police Saturday, which police said is part of standard procedure.
Stopped first by police in Paris’ northern suburbs early Saturday morning for speeding and driving without lights, Belgacem opened fire with a revolver, wounding an officer, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said, adding that the shooter was “known to the police and intelligence.”
Belgacem then threatened people in a bar before stealing a car at gunpoint and driving to the airport.
The female soldier attacked at Orly is a member of the Sentinelle Special Forces that guard airports, religious sites and other popular places in France since terror attacks in 2015.
Police teams quickly secured the airport and searched for explosives, but found none.
French President Francois Hollande said during a news conference that the Orly attack proved the necessity of the Sentinelle patrol soldiers and that investigators will determine whether the attacker “had a terrorist plot behind him.”
The suspect’s home was searched in 2015 after a terror attack in Paris that killed 130 people because of his suspected connection to radical Islam, French authorities said.