French soldiers have shot a man dead who attempted to snatch a weapon from one of their ranks at Paris Orly Airport, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux told reporters.
The man has been identified by French authorities as Ziyed Ben Belgacem.
France 24 reports that the 39-year-old French citizen lived in Garges-les-Gonesse just north of Paris.
He was 1.8 meters tall (5’ 11”) and of average build, and was wearing dark grey pants and a white top.
Le Roux said earlier that the attacker is also suspected of shooting and injuring a police officer in another part of Paris earlier on Saturday morning.
The suspect had been pulled over for an identification check when he opened fire on police, the minister said, as cited by Reuters.
Paris police later confirmed he used a pellet gun.
Le Roux also said he is suspected of stealing a woman’s car at gunpoint after shooting the officer.
The Paris prosecutor revealed later Saturday that Belgacem shouted Islamic slogans before being fatally shot by security staff.
"I am here to die for Allah, there will be deaths,” he exclaimed, according to prosecutor Francois Molins.
A police source told the news agency that the man was on a police watch list for radical Islamic activity.
“This same man – a radicalized Muslim known to intelligence services and the justice system – then took a Famas (assault weapon) from a soldier at Orly’s southern terminal... before being shot dead by a soldier,” the source said.
The Paris prosecutor’s office told France 24 that the assailant had been known to police for robbery and drug offenses.
The news outlet also noted that he had “nine unspecified infractions” on his criminal record.
However, Le Monde is reporting that he was not subject to a Fiche ‘S’ flag, which would single him out as “a serious risk to national security.”
The Fiche ‘S’ category is the highest threat level France designates to an individual.
AP is reporting that his house was among dozens searched in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks that left 130 people dead in November of 2015, when people suspected of radical leanings were targeted in police raids.
A judicial source told Reuters that the man’s father and brother have been taken into police custody. The source added that this is routine in such incidents.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for France’s Interior Ministry said terrorism is a “possible” motive and the anti-terrorism prosecutor has already launched an investigation into the incident at Orly.
Flights were suspended at Paris Orly Airport as security operations were underway, but travel has resumed at both terminals.
Orly Airport attack
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the attacker had targeted a patrol of three air force soldiers and wrestled a female soldier to the ground before trying to take her weapon, the AP reports.
Benoit Brulon, a spokesperson for France’s anti-terror patrol force, said: “It was then that her comrades opened fire to protect her and people around.”
Some witnesses report seeing the man, who is believed to have been acting alone, briefly holding the soldier hostage before being shot.
“He was holding the woman by her neck with the police officer’s gun in his hand.
We understood the seriousness of the situation and fled.
Later we heard several shots,” a witness told outside the airport.
A French Army representative told reporters that the female soldier who was attacked at Orly was “doing fine” after the “extremely violent” incident.