Man killed at Paris airport had criminal past

The 39-year-old Frenchman who was shot and killed on Saturday, had a long criminal record and early on Saturday fired bird shot at police during a traffic stop before speeding away.

French soldiers killed the man when he tried to steal a soldier’s rifle at Paris’ Orly Airport. The melee forced the airport’s busy terminals to close and evacuate and trapped hundreds of passengers aboard flights that had just landed.

In the public area of Orly’s south terminal, the man wrestled the soldier who was on foot patrol and tried to snatch away her rifle, authorities said. The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the patrol’s other two members opened fire. Le Drian said the soldier managed to keep hold of her weapon.

“Her two comrades thought it was necessary – and they were right – to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around,” Le Drian said.

The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

Witnesses described panicked bystanders fleeing, flights halting, traffic chaos and planes under lockdowns. French authorities, however, stressed that security planning – reinforced across the country in the wake of repeated attacks – worked well.

Authorities said at least 3 000 people were evacuated from the airport. Hundreds of passengers also were confined for several hours aboard 13 flights that were blocked in landing areas and 15 other flights were diverted to Paris’ other main airport, Charles de Gaulle, the Paris airport authority said.

A French official connected to the investigation confirmed French media reports that identified the attacker as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, born in France in 1978.

The attacker’s motives were unknown. After the airport attack, his father and brother were detained by police for questioning Saturday – standard operating procedure in such probes.

The anti-terrorism section of the Paris prosecutors’ office immediately took over the investigation. The prosecutors’ office said the attacker had a record of robbery and drug offences.

The shooting comes after a similar incident last month at the Louvre Museum in Paris in which an Egyptian man attacked soldiers guarding the site. He was shot and wounded and taken into custody.

It also comes just days before the first anniversary of the March 22 attacks on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.