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Islamic Radical Suspected in Fatal Paris Airport Scuffle

  • VOA News

Travelers evacuate Orly airport, south of Paris, March, 18, 2017. Soldiers at Paris' busy Orly Aiport shot and killed a man who wrestled one of their colleagues to the ground and tried to steal her rifle Saturday, officials said.

A man fatally shot at a Paris airport Saturday after attempting to seize a rifle from a patrol soldier, was suspected to have ties to radical Islam, officials said.

The man, identified by the Associated Press as 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, wrestled the soldier to the ground and attempted to take her rifle, but two other soldiers on patrol with her opened fire on the man, killing him, according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

No one else was injured in the incident, which took place at Paris’s Orly Airport at about 8:30 a.m. local time.

The Paris prosecutors’ office said the suspect had his home searched in 2015 after the terror attack in Paris that killed 130 people because of his suspected connection to radical Islam.

Police didn’t provide a motive for the attack on the Air Force soldiers, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said the 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.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said Belgacem was “known to the police and intelligence” and he is suspected of shooting a police officer earlier Saturday.

Belgacem allegedly shot the police officer in the face with a shotgun during a routine traffic stop in a northern Paris suburb. He then threatened some people in a bar before stealing a car at gunpoint and driving to the airport. The officer suffered minor head injuries, Le Roux said.

The soldier who was attacked is a member of the Sentinelle Special Forces that now guard airports, religious sites and other popular places in France since the 2015 terror attacks.

Police teams quickly secured the airport and searched for explosives, but found none. Incoming flights were diverted to nearby airports and delays were expected. The Paris airport authority posted a message on its website urging people to avoid Orly airport.

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.”

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