Man Shot Dead At France's Orly Airport After He Attempts To Steal Soldier's Weapon

Mar 18, 2017
Originally published on March 18, 2017 4:40 pm

Updated at 4:40 p.m.

A man was shot and killed by soldiers at Orly Airport outside Paris this morning after he attacked a soldier and stole her rifle.

Paris prosecutor François Molins said that the attacker held a pistol to the soldier's head and used her as a shield, the Associated Press reports. The attacker yelled that he wanted to die for Allah and said that "whatever happens, there will be deaths."

Molins said that French soldiers fired eight rounds in order to kill the attacker. He said that a Quran was found among the items found on the attacker's body.

NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that French interior minister Bruno Le Roux said the man was the same person who had shot a police officer earlier in the day during a routine traffic stop, and who had then hijacked a car. "Le Roux confirmed that the 39-year-old man had a petty criminal record and that his house had previously been searched under expanded security measures granted by France's state of emergency," Beardsley reports.

The AP reports that the attacker has been identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a 39-year-old born in France. The Paris prosecutor's office says that the suspect's house was among many searched after attacks in November 2015 that killed 130 in Paris. The searches were aimed at those suspected of having radical leanings.

Anti-terrorism police are handling the investigation into the airport incident. The man's father and brother have been taken into custody for questioning, Reuters reports.

"I salute the courage and efficiency of the police and military in the face of assaults committed by a particularly dangerous individual," tweeted French president François Hollande.

The officer who was attacked was part of a special unit called Sentinelle, which was created in the wake of the terrorist attacks in 2015, the AP reports. The force numbers 7,500 soldiers — half in Paris, half in the provinces. This attack was the fourth attack on Sentinelle since its creation. More than 250 people have died in France in the last two years in attacks linked to groups allied with ISIS.

A similar event happened last month at the Louvre, when a machete-wielding man shouted "Allahu Akbar" and attacked a security patrol, before a soldier shot and wounded him.

Terminals at Orly Airport have now reopened. Some flights that landed while the incident unfolded sat on the tarmac for hours; other flights were rerouted to Charles de Gaulle, the larger airport in Paris.

France has been on high alert for more than a year. French presidential elections will take place in April and May, and this incident ensures that security will continue to be a major issue in the campaign.

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