19 Mar 2017

Man shot dead after grabbing soldier's gun at Orly Airport, Paris

3:34 pm on 19 March 2017

A man shot dead after grabbing a soldier's gun at Paris' Orly airport was reported as radicalised in the past and was on a police watch list.

RAID police unit officers secure the area at the Paris' Orly airport on 18 March, 2017 following the shooting of a man by French security forces.

RAID police unit officers secure the area at the Paris' Orly airport on 18 March, 2017 following the shooting of a man by French security forces. Photo: AFP

The man, named Ziyad ben Belgacem, had wrestled a soldier to the ground in what an army spokesperson called "an extremely violent attack," attempting to take her rifle.

Witnesses said he shouted he was there to "die for Allah" as he seized hold of a woman air force member who was part of a military patrol at the airport.

He was then shot by the two other members of her patrol.

Prosecutors have opened an anti-terror investigation. Belgacem had been reported as radicalised in the past, and was on a police watch-list.

A member of the police trade union in France said the attack was carefully planned.

He was involved in an earlier shooting in Paris's north and a car theft at gunpoint in the south of the city, closer to the airport, on Saturday.

He had a long criminal record including convictions for armed robbery, French media reported.

A Koran was found on his body.

Parts of the airport were evacuated and passengers were not allowed to disembark after witnesses reported hearing shots.

French police secure the area at Paris' Orly airport after the shooting of a man by French security forces on 18 March  2017. Security forces at Paris' Orly airport shot dead a man who took a weapon from a soldier, officials said.

French police secure the area at Paris' Orly airport, where security forces shot dead a man who took a weapon from a soldier. Photo: AFP

His home is being searched and his father and brother have been taken into custody - standard procedure in suspected terror attacks.

The airport's south terminal remained closed as a crime scene, and the body was tested for explosives. Police said the terminal was likely to remain closed throughout Saturday.

"We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby," traveller Franck Lecam said.

Officials said the man approached a group of soldiers patrolling the airport's southern terminal and made off with the gun into a shop.

At that point shots were fired and the man was killed. His motivation was not yet known. No-one else was hurt.

In the earlier shooting, he was stopped at a checkpoint in Garges-les-Gonesse, north of Paris, where he reportedly lives.

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

He is then believed to have stolen another car at gunpoint from a woman at Vitry, south of Paris. That car was later found at Orly airport.

Orly is Paris' second largest airport.

Police warned people to stay away from the security cordon. All flights in and out of the airport were suspended.

Travellers were evacuated from Orly airport after the shooting.

Travellers were evacuated from Orly airport after the shooting. Photo: AFP

Police said Ziyed B was not carrying any explosives. No-one else was seriously hurt in either incident.

The soldiers 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.

France has presidential elections starting from next month and remains under a state of emergency following earlier attacks.

In an incident last month, a man wielding knives lunged at soldiers at Paris's Louvre museum before being shot and injured.

- BBC / Reuters