Man identified by security official as Ziyed Ben Belgacem was killed hours after he shot and injured a policeman north of Paris
French anti-terror officials have launched an investigation after a man known to the security services shot at a police officer in northern Paris before travelling across the city to Orly airport, where he was killed following an altercation with another officer.
The attacker was said to be a radicalised Muslim who appeared on a security watchlist, police sources told Reuters. France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor later confirmed that an inquiry had been opened into the incident on Saturday morning.
The suspect was identified by a security official as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a 39-year-old born in France, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors said the suspect’s house was among scores searched in November 2015 in the immediate aftermath of terror attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed. Those searches targeted people with suspected radical leanings.
The suspect’s father and brother were detained by police for questioning on Saturday.
The French president, François Hollande, said the investigation would determine whether the Orly attacker “had a terrorist plot behind him”.
The French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the attacker had assaulted a patrol of three air force soldiers, one of whom was a woman.
The attacker wrestled her to the floor and tried to take her weapon, but she was able to keep hold of it. The two other soldiers then opened fire to protect her and passengers in the airport, he said.
A trolley stretcher is wheeled into Orly airport southern terminal after the shooting.
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A stretcher is wheeled into Orly airport’s southern terminal after the shooting. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters
The air force personnel were deployed as part of Sentinelle, a military operation launched in January 2015 after the Paris terrorist attacks to support the police and protect sensitive sites.
The interior minister, Bruno Le Roux, said the man shot dead at the airport was linked with a car-jacking incident earlier on Saturday in a northern suburb of Paris. He said the man had shot at a female police officer after being stopped for speeding before fleeing the scene and stealing a car at gunpoint.
Le Roux said the officer had not been badly injured.
No explosive devices were found on the dead man’s body, an interior ministry spokesman said.
About 3,000 people were evacuated from both terminals at Orly and all flights were suspended, with some diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport. Some flights began operating again early Saturday afternoon. No one else was injured in the Orly incident.
Passengers wait among emergency vehicles at Orly airport.
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Passengers wait among emergency vehicles at Orly airport. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
The airport shooting follows after a similar incident last month at the Louvre museum in central Paris.
France remains under a state of emergency in the wake of the attack on the Bataclan music venue in November 2015 in which jihadi gunmen killed 90 people, and the Nice truck attack last July that claimed the lives of 84 people and injured hundreds more.
On a visit to Paris on Saturday the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met survivors of the Bataclan attack, praising their bravery and the “amazing progress” of their recovery.
The royal couple met a 25-year-old, known only as Jessica, who was shot seven times in the leg, hip and back as she dined with friends at La Belle Equipe restaurant, and Kevin, 28, a Bataclan concert-goer shot in the leg.
The couple visited the hospital where the pair have been treated as reports of the incident at Orly airport emerged. A Kensington Palace spokesman said the royal visit was unaffected.
This article was corrected on 19 March 2017. Sentinelle is an operation, not an elite special forces group as suggested earlier.