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Paris Airport Attacker Vowed To 'Die For Allah,' Prosecutor Says

  • RFE/RL

Police stand guard at Orly airport's southern terminal after the incident.

Police stand guard at Orly airport's southern terminal after the incident.

French security forces have killed a man who attempted to seize a gun from a soldier at Paris's Orly airport, authorities say.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Zied ben Belgacem was shot dead on March 18 after attacking a patrol at France's second-busiest airport, saying he wanted to "die for Allah."

The 39-year-old Frenchman was earlier involved in a shooting and a carjacking in the Paris region, officials said.

Molins said Belgacem’s choice of target and evidence he had been radicalized justified launching a terror investigation.

Police sources were quoted as saying the suspect had been investigated for links to radical Islam and had a long criminal record, including convictions for drugs and armed robbery.

Early in the morning, the suspect was stopped at a checkpoint in the northern Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse and fired at police with a gun, slightly injuring a police officer.

He then fled in a car that was later found abandoned in Vitry-sur-Seine, south of the capital, and stole another vehicle that was later found at Orly airport.

At around 8:30 a.m., Belgacem entered the Orly-Sud terminal, where he tried to seize a weapon from a female soldier on patrol "in an extremely violent attack," an army spokesman said.

Molins said Belgacem used a pistol to take the soldier hostage.

"Put your weapons down, hands on your head. I'm here to die for Allah. In any case, people are going to die," the prosecutor quoted the attacker as saying.

Molins said the soldier's colleagues shot him dead after he wrenched away her assault rifle.

The attacker was also carrying a petrol can that he tossed to the ground, the prosecutor said, adding that a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, 750 euros ($805) in cash, and a copy of the Koran were found on his body.

Several grams of cocaine, a machete, and some foreign currency were found at Belgacem's home in a northeastern Paris suburb, Molins also said.

His father, a brother, and a cousin were being held in police custody for questioning, according to reports.

Flights at Orly airport were suspended for several hours after the attack, but normal service resumed by midafternoon.

The attack comes ahead of France’s presidential elections, which start on April 23.

The country remains under a state of emergency after a series of militant attacks, including the November 2015 massacre in Paris in which 130 people were killed and a truck attack in Nice in July 2016 that left 86 dead.

Meanwhile, security forces have been repeatedly targeted. Last month, a man wielding knives attacked soldiers at Paris's Louvre museum before being shot and wounded by police.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and the BBC
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