Radicalised Muslim known to security agencies shot dead in possible ‘terror’ incident at Paris airport – as security stepped up at stadium where Duke and Duchess watch rugby

A radicalised Muslim known to intelligence agencies has been shot dead at Paris Orly airport after seizing an air force patrolwoman’s gun — just hours after he shot a police officer in the face in a northern suburb.

The incident came as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited Paris, where they were due to meet survivors of the Bataclan and other attacks.

Security was stepped up at the Stade de France – where the Royal couple are attending the Six Nations rugby match between Wales and France – in the wake of the attack.

Authorities identified the man as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a 39-year-old French national of north African origin born in Paris.

The father and brother of the attacker, who had at least one conviction for a drugs offence, have been taken into custody, police said.

The  man hurled himself at three air force personnel patrolling a passenger terminal on Saturday morning under counter-terrorism measures introduced after the 2015 Paris attacks.

Watch | Radicalised Muslim shot dead at Paris airport

 He wrestled the patrolwoman to the ground and snatched her assault rifle, grabbing her around the neck and fleeing into a McDonald’s. The two servicemen on patrol with her fired three shots “to protect their colleague and the public,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said.

The attacker, who had previous drugs and theft convictions, was wanted for questioning by police in connection with criminal investigations. His father and brother were taken into custody when they went voluntarily to a police station after receiving a text from him, saying  “I’ve done something stupid. I’ve fired at police.”

President François Hollande, who visited the airport six hours after the incident, said: “I wish to salute the exceptional courage and the conduct of the security forces who made sure the individual was not able to do harm.”
A picture taken of a television screen shows a man lying on the ground of a terminal building at Paris' Orly airport after he was shot by French security forces for taking a weapon from a soldier
A picture taken of a television screen shows a man lying on the ground of a terminal building at Paris’ Orly airport after he was shot by French security forces for taking a weapon from a soldier CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

 

The airport, the second largest serving the French capital, is less than 20 miles from the central Paris residence of the British ambassador where the Royal couple are staying.

The attacker, who was on a terror watch list, had earlier fled the northern suburb of Stains in a Renault Clio after opening fire at police with a pellet gun during an identity check, injuring a female officer in the face.

The car, which was registered in the man’s name, was later found abandoned.

He then hijacked a woman’s car at gunpoint in the southern suburb of Vitry, which he drove to the airport.

Map of Paris
Map of Paris

 

Police identified him from his ID papers, which he had given to police before opening fire. The 39-year-old, who was born in Paris and has at least one drugs conviction, is believed to have been radicalised in prison.

France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation.

The airport, packed with weekend travellers and holidaymakers, was evacuated while it was searched by bomb disposal squads. No explosives were found.

Some 3,000 people were escorted out of the airport  terminals. Passengers in planes that had landed before the shooting were kept aboard the aircraft until the airport was judged secure.

Passengers wait at Orly airport southern terminal after a shooting incident near Paris
Passengers wait at Orly airport southern terminal after a shooting incident near ParisCREDIT: REUTERS

 

The  Paris Airports Authority said the Orly south terminal, where the shooting took place, may remain closed until Saturday night. The west terminal has reopened.

The incident happened near people queuing to check in for a flight to Tel Aviv.

The Interior Ministry spokesman, Pierre-Henry Brandet, said: “A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces.” No one was wounded in the incident, he said.

French policemen and firefighters secure the area at Paris' Orly airport 
French policemen and firefighters secure the area at Paris’s Orly airport  CREDIT: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

 

“There’s possibly a terrorist motive but that’s something the justice system will have to ascertain and it will do so in due time,” Mr Brandet told reporters.

A shopkeeper at the airport who was close to the man when he fled into a shop said she had tried to persuade him to lay down his weapon. “I told him not to do it, to put down the gun, but he didn’t respond,” she said. “He appeared very focused.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who began a two-day visit to Paris on Friday, are also to attend a France-Wales rugby match later on Saturday, as well as meeting terrorism victims at the Invalides military museum complex in the centre of the capital.

A police spokesman said the Royal couple are under close guard and there was no need to increase security measures. Diplomatic sources said the incident would not affect their visit.

Colonel Benoît Brulon, a military spokesman, praised the security forces for acting speedily to “neutralise” the attacker without casualties.

Emergency vehicles arrive Orly airport southern terminal in Paris
Emergency vehicles arrive Orly airport southern terminal in Paris CREDIT: REUTERS

 

“Vigilance is already extremely strong and procedures will not be changed. Soldiers will continue to patrol and protect the public,” he said.

Thousands of armed police and soldiers routinely patrol the streets of Paris, airports and railway stations. About 7,000 military personnel are deployed around the country under the state of emergency introduced after the Paris attacks.

Yasmine, an airport employee, said there had been panic after shots were heard in the terminal. “People were rushing around in all directions. It was chaos for a few minutes.”

Nearly five hours after the incident, passengers were still standing outside a security cordon established around the South terminal.

The incident revived memories of a machete attack on soldiers at the Louvre museum in February last year. The attacker, a 29-year-old Egyptian, was also shot by a soldier. – The Telegraph

 

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