Orly airport: France launches terror investigation


Police searched Belgacem's home in Garges-les-GonesseImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

Police searched Belgacem’s home north of Paris for signs of any links with militants

French anti-terror prosecutors are investigating an attack at Paris’s Orly airport by a gunman who was eventually shot dead by security forces.

Ziyed Ben Belgacem, 39, was killed on Saturday after he put a gun to a soldier’s head saying he wanted to “die for Allah”, officials say.

Earlier that day he had been involved in a shooting and then a carjacking.

Belgacem is described as having been radicalised in prison, and was on a police watch-list.

His criminal record included convictions for armed robbery and drugs offences, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters late on Saturday.

Intelligence agents searched his home in Garges-les-Gonesse for evidence of Islamist sympathies, but reportedly found nothing. However, traces of cocaine were discovered during the search.

The BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris says the picture is building up of a man on the criminal fringes of society, who also consorted with Islamist radicals.

Operation Sentinel

The attack comes at a sensitive time. France has presidential elections starting next month and remains under a state of emergency.

The soldiers at Orly were part of Operation Sentinel – involving thousands of soldiers deployed to provide back-up to the police after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015 and the Paris attacks of November 2015.


The sequence of events

Early on Saturday morning, Belgacem was stopped at a checkpoint in Garges-les-Gonesse, north of Paris, where he lives.

He fired at police with a pellet gun before escaping in a car that was later found abandoned.

Police say he then stole a car at gunpoint from a woman at Vitry, south of Paris. That car was later found at Orly airport.

Belgacem arrived at the airport and attacked the military patrol in the south terminal.

He tried to seize the servicewoman’s automatic weapon, put his gun to her head and said: “I’m here to die for Allah. In any case people are going to die.”

He was then shot dead by two other soldiers.

A copy of the Koran was found on his body, Mr Molins added.


Orly – located 13km (8 miles) south of Paris – is the capital’s second-largest airport.

Media caption“The attacker was holding the soldier by her neck”

Both the west and the south terminals were closed during the security operation. An estimated 3,000 passengers were evacuated.

Flights were suspended for several hours. Both terminals reopened later on Saturday and flight operations gradually resumed.


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