Published: Tue, March 21, 2017
Global Media | By Garry Long

Paris airport attacker previously suspected of 'Islamist radicalism'

Paris airport attacker previously suspected of 'Islamist radicalism'

Blood tests have revealed that a gunman who attacked soldiers at Orly airport in Paris on Saturday had consumed drugs and alcohol.

The father of Ziyed Ben Belgacem, the man who took a female soldier hostage at Paris Orly Airport over the weekend has given a statement insisting that his now deceased son was not a terrorist.

Earlier Saturday morning, Ben Belgacem shot and lightly wounded a police officer at a traffic stop and then hijacked a woman's auto at gunpoint in another nearby suburb, the Paris prosecutor confirmed.

He had been investigated for links to radical Islam and was jailed for five years in 2001 for armed robbery, and again in 2009 for drug dealing.

A terrorist enquiry has now been launched into the two attacks and the death of Belgacem, who was only released from prison just months before.

All flights are being redirected from the airport, and reporter Jake Cigainero in Paris tells NPR's Newscast that police "have completely evacuated the airport and suspended all traffic".

Europe 1 did not give the father's name.

The father and brother told police that Belgacem phoned them Saturday morning, minutes after shooting at the police traffic patrol, to say that he'd "made a mistake", Molins said.

"He called me at seven, eight in the morning and said: 'There you go, Papa.' He was extremely angry, even his mother couldn't understand him", he said.

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Police did not provide a motive for the attack, but the Paris prosecutors office said an investigation is being handled by the anti-terror division.

Police were questioning the man's father and brother, Thibault-Lecuivre said.

French president Francois Hollande later announced that the investigation into the attack was being handled by anti-terrorism prosecutors, and that subsequent anti-terrorism operations were already underway following the incident. He dragged her backward and ordered her two male colleagues to drop their weapons and raise their hands, telling them, "I am here to die for Allah...."

Following the coordinated attacks around Paris in November 2015, the French government declared a state of emergency that was extended in December for the fifth time and will remain in force until July 2017.

He fired at police with a pellet gun before escaping in a vehicle that was later found abandoned.

Paris is on high alert after yesterday's two attacks.

Passengers were allowed off their blocked planes around noon, once a search of the airport was complete, but the airport's South Terminal did not reopen until late afternoon, authorities said.

Belgacem's plans were unclear, Molins said, adding that an investigation is meant to determine whether he acted as a "lone wolf".

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