Paris: Terrorist who tried to seize soldiers gun at airport shot dead

Police begin massive security operation at Paris Orly airport
Police begin massive security operation at Paris Orly airport

A man has been shot dead after trying to seize a soldier’s weapon at Orly airport in Paris, French officials say.

He was killed by the security forces in a shop after the attack in the airport’s southern terminal.

The airport has been shut after what the authorities described as an extremely serious incident.

The man was on a watch-list of radicalised individuals and had been involved in a shooting hours earlier in the north of Paris, officials say.

The sequence of events

Early on Saturday morning the suspect was stopped at a checkpoint in northern Paris and fired at police with a pellet gun before escaping in a car that was later found abandoned in the southern suburbs.

He is then believed to have stolen another car that was found at Orly airport. The timing of the sequence of events fits, says the BBC’s Hugh Schofield in Paris.

At the airport 90 minutes later the man approached a military patrol and tried to seize a weapon from one of the soldiers, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

She managed to keep hold of the gun, and two other soldiers opened fire on the attacker, killing him.

His motivation is not yet known.

A security operation is continuing at the airport with bomb disposal experts involved and a search for any possible accomplices.

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Police say the attacker was not carrying any explosives. No-one else was seriously hurt in either incident.

Travel disruption

Orly – located 13km (8 miles) south of Paris – is the capital’s second largest airport.

Police have warned people to stay away from the security cordon and people intending to travel to the airport have been advised to make alternative arrangements as all flights in and out of the airport have been suspended.

Scores of passengers have been unable to disembark from aircraft that landed at Orly as the huge security operation takes place. An estimated 3,000 passengers were evacuated.

How the Orly airport attack is affecting travel arrangements

A total of 833 passenger flights were expected to arrive and depart from Orly airport on Saturday.
Police have said that the airport is closed and travellers should seek alternative arrangements. A growing number of flights have been cancelled.
Paris Aeroport – the company that runs Orly airport – has said: “Do not come to the airport”.
Some arrivals have been diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport.

Terrified witnesses

Witnesses said the airport was evacuated soon after the shooting.

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“We were sitting in Hall Three when all of a sudden people started running and telling us to run with them,” Ellie Guttetter, 18, from the US said.

“The people running were passengers and flight attendants. It was pretty chaotic and everyone was panicking – it was scary.”

Another eyewitness, Meredith Dixon, described seeing panicked airline personnel, with no security or police personnel to usher people outside the airport complex.

“It was complete chaos,” she told the BBC.

“There were no alarms. No overhead announcements. No organised evacuation. People just began running.

“In the meantime, passengers kept arriving at the airport. I am stunned that after the events in this country, and Paris in particular, the airport had no organised evacuation plan for what I would surmise is a high-value target.”

Attack comes at a delicate time

The soldiers were part of Operation Sentinel – involving thousands of soldiers deployed to provide back-up to the police after the Paris attacks of November 2015.

France has presidential elections starting from next month and remains under a state of emergency following earlier attacks.

Presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to “the calm, control and professionalism” of troops who responded to the attack.

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