Paris Airport Reopens, Probe Launched After Police Kill Gunman

  • Police anti-terrorism unit to investigate Orly incident
  • Both terminals at smaller Paris airport reopen after six hours

Paris’s anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation Saturday after a man who seized a soldier’s weapon at Orly airport was killed by security personnel. The airport reopened after six hours, with flights diverted to the larger Charles de Gaulle hub.

“The investigation has just started and will try to understand his movements, his motivation, and by studying his contacts, what led him to carry out this action,” Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said at a press conference.

The assailant snatched a weapon from a patrolling officer in Orly’s South terminal and held her as a human shield, but was killed by three shots fired by a special police unit at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Molins said. The incident lasted about two minutes.

The man shouted “I am willing to die for Allah, and regardless, there will be deaths,” as he held a gun to the head of the soldier, Molins said.

Police and firefighters secure the area at Paris’ Orly airport on March 18.

Photographer: Christophe Simon/AFP via Getty Images

All flights to Orly were re-routed, Aeroport de Paris and the aviation authority DGAC said in text messages. The South wing of the airport was evacuated.

Molins said the suspect, a 39-year-old born in Paris, had been arrested nine times for robbery and drug trafficking. Police found cocaine and foreign money at his home today. The suspect’s home was also searched in 2015, he said, following signs that he’d been radicalized in prison between 2010 and 2012, but nothing suspect was found at that time. Molins said the assailant’s brother, father and a cousin have been detained for questioning.

The anti-terror unit is running the probe, the prosecutor’s office said in a text message. Police intelligence services and anti-terrorism units will assist the investigation, which comes a month before France’s presidential election.

Police found no explosive devices at Orly; the assailant’s bag contained a Koran, cash and cigarettes, Molins said.

More than 430 flights were scheduled to land or depart Saturday from the airport, located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the city, DGAC said in a text message. By the evening both the West and South terminals had reopened, the DGAC said. Passengers on planes grounded on the tarmac were taken to the West terminal to be unloaded during the investigation, DGAC said.

The incident occurred hours after the same man shot and injured a police officer performing identity checks north of Paris at about 7 a.m. Saturday, Molins said.

Saturday’s attack was the second on patrolling soldiers in France this year. In February, soldiers were attacked near the Louvre museum in Paris. The assailant was severely injured by armed forces.

France’s terror alert remains at its highest level, President Francois Hollande said in a statement. The country has been under state of emergency rule since December 2015, following multiple attacks over the past two years.

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