A 39-year-old man shot and killed while wrestling with a security officer at Paris Orly Airport on Saturday shouted "I want to die for Allah" as he tried to seize the soldier's assault rifle, the Paris prosecutor said.
Prosecutor Francois Molins said the attacker, identified as French-born Ziyed Ben Belgacem, apparently wanted to wrest the rifle away so he could shoot people at random in the busy airport.
The deadly struggle, which prompted officials to partially evacuate Orly and divert flights to other airports, erupted about 90 minutes after the suspect fled the scene of a traffic stop where he was pulled over for speeding. At that site, he shot a pellet gun at a police officer, then commandeered another car and drove to Orly, according to authorities.
Molins told reporters the suspect yelled that he wanted to "die in the name of Allah" and “whatever happens, there will be deaths.”
The attacker initially held a pistol to a female security soldier’s head, using her as a shield while he grabbed her powerful military-grade assault rifle, Molins said. He apparently intended to use it to shoot people in the busy Paris airport but was shot and killed by three shots from two other security officers, Molins added.
The attacker also carried a container of gasoline that he tossed to the ground, and a Quran was also later found on his body, Molins said.
Belgacem was flagged for suspected radicalism during a previous spell in prison, Molins said. The Paris prosecutors office said earlier that the suspect was not listed on the government’s database of terrorist suspects or people deemed a threat to national security.
However, his house was among scores searched in November 2015 following terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Prosecutors also said his criminal record contained nine unspecified infractions.
French defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the three-person patrol that the suspect encountered was part of the Sentinel special force deployed around France at sensitive sites after a string of terrorist attacks.
Le Drian said the other two soldiers accompanying the first officer fired “to protect her” and the public. Molins said they shot a total of eight rounds.
Paris' anti-terrorism section is investigating, the prosecutors' office confirmed.
Airport authorities, who asked the public to avoid the area, said Orly was partially evacuated and flights diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport.
The incident came a month after French soldiers opened fire on a man wielding a machete who shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as he attacked them near the Louvre museum in Paris. An Egyptian interior ministry official confirmed the identity of that attacker to the Associated Press as Egyptian-born Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy.
Orly is Paris’ second-biggest airport after Charles de Gaulle. It serves domestic and international flights, notably to destinations in Europe and Africa.
Contributing: The Associated Press