Ziyed Belgacem, also known as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, was named as the 39-year-old attacker. French authorities believe he was responsible for an earlier shooting at a police checkpoint.
Belgacem “yelled he wanted to die in the name of Allah and said ‘whatever happens, there will be deaths,” at the airport, the Independent reported. In the end, his was the only death, however.
The attack comes as France remains on edge from a series of terrorist attacks in the country over the past year, and a recent school shooting. According to Reuters, “More than 230 people have died in France in the past two years at the hands of attackers allied to the militant Islamist group Islamic State.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Belgacem Was Investigated as a Potential Terror Threat Before the Attack
According to the Associated Press, Belgacem was known to French authorities.
Reuters reported that the man was “identified as a 39-year-old radicalized Muslim who was already on the radar of police and intelligence services.”
However, The Independent reported that Belgacem was not on what is called the “fiche S” list of terror threats, despite being investigated “as a potential jihadi after indications of Islamist radicalisation emerged in 2015.” Earlier reports had said erroneously that he was on a terror watch list.
Belgacem “was known to the intelligence services,” reported Le Figaro.
2. Belgacem Was Shot to Death After Trying to Wrestle a Rifle From a Soldier
The dramatic scene unfolded when the suspect tried to grab a rifle from a female soldier on guard at the airport, according to The Star.
“Belgacem assaulted three Air Force soldiers who were patrolling the airport. He said the soldier who was attacked managed to hold on to her rifle and the two soldiers she was with opened fire to protect her and the public,” the news site reported.
The Guardian reported that Belgacem “grabbed the female soldier from behind…He placed his left arm across her throat and put a 9mm pellet gun pistol against her temple. Pulling her back and using her as a human shield, he ordered her two male colleagues to put down their weapons and raise their hands.”
That’s when he said, “I am here to die for Allah … in any case there will be deaths,” reported the Guardian. But the soldier, who is in her 20s “fought back and the man forced her to her knees as he attempted to wrest her Famas assault rifle from her,” the Guardian reported.
She “grabbed it back; then he snatched it a second time. As she dropped to the ground, her two colleagues were able to shoot him dead,” according to the Guardian.
3. Belgacem Was Born in France & Described as a Career Criminal
Belgacem was born in France and is of Tunisian descent, the Mirror reported.
According to Reuters, he had a criminal record for theft and drug offenses.
The Independent reported that authorities believe that Belgacem was radicalized in prison. Le Figaro reported that Belgacem was previously convicted of robberies.
The French magazine reported that the attacker was born in February 1978 in Paris. Le Figaro reported that Belgacem’s criminal record included “nine mentions,” including aggravated thefts and drug trafficking. “He was under judicial control. He was put under investigation by the Paris court in March 2016 after various break-ins. He had been released on parole in September 2016. According to the prosecutor, he had been spotted as radicalized in prison in 2011/2012,” reported the French magazine.
Searches at his home in Garges-les-Gonesse recovered cocaine, a machete, and foreign currency, reported Le Figaro.
4. He Fired Birdshot at Other Officers After Being Stopped Before the Airport
A police patrol stopped the suspect for driving too fast before he made it to Orly airport, AP reports.
Paris police say he “fired birdshot at officers who stopped him, wounding one in the face. He then fled and stole a woman’s car after threatening her with a weapon. That car was found near Orly,” according to AP.
Reuters reported that the suspect used an “air gun” during that “routine traffic stop.”
He fled in a car and was “involved in a carjacking in another Paris suburb Vitry where he threatened customers of a bar,” reported Reuters.
5. Thousands Were Evacuated From the Busy Airport & the Suspect Is Accused of Sending a Text Message About the Attack
BFM-TV reported that Belgacem texted his father to say “I’ve screwed up. I’ve shot a policeman,” according to Reuters.
The busy Paris airport was evacuated during the incident, which was captured on dramatic videos posted to social media.
Orly is the second busiest airport in France. The soldiers involved were part of the Sentinelle special forces, “an elite military group installed around France to protect sensitive sites” from terrorists, according to The Guardian.
Prince William and his wife Kate are in Paris and visited victims of the Paris attack.
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