By Allegra Berg
On March 18, French officials shot and killed Ziyed Ben Belgacem after he assaulted a soldier in the Paris Orly Airport. According to NBC, Belgacem had an existing criminal record, and during the morning of the Orly attack, he fired shots at police officers during a traffic stop.
According to NBC, Belgacem held a soldier hostage before being shot dead, resulting in the evacuation of 3,000 people from the airport. One passenger, Pascal Menniti recounted to NBC, “we’d already registered our bags when we saw a soldier pointing his gun at the attacker who was holding another soldier hostage.”
Following the incident, the airport was evacuated, while an elite operations unit and a bomb squad were called in to survey the scene. No additional evidence was found, according to CNN. Flights were then suspended for hours, with all inbound flights being diverted to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. By Sunday, air traffic slowly began resuming with more than 2,000 people disrupted by the incident.
CNN reported that the attacker’s father claim his son is “not a terrorist” amid There are reports of Belgacem shouting “I am here to die in the name of Allah” before he was killed by the other soldiers. Belgacem’s father continues to blame his actions on drugs and alcohol rather than on radicalization, despite reports that he had been previously “flagged” for possible radicalism. Toxicology reports did show the presence of alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine in Belgacem’s body, according to CNN. Timelines also indicated that the initial traffic stop shooting happened around 3 am, after Belgacem left a bar and drove away.
Belgacem was imprisoned several times in the past for various violent actions and theft convictions, according to NBC. Belgacem previously crossed into French officials’ radar following the November 2015 suicide bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 people. His house was searched following the incident amid similar searches which targeting people who were believed to have radical leanings. His motives for the Saturday attack, however, continue to remain unknown.
Additional security has since been placed into effect at airports, train stations and other public locations following the attack. President Holland said, following the incident and increase in security, that it is “absolutely essential” to keep citizens safe. According to France24, France remains under a state of emergency following, not only the March 18 incident but also, the November 2015 massacre and the Nice truck attack in July.
The airport attack also followed a letter bomb exploding at the Parris offices of the International Monetary Fund on March 16. French President Francois Holland officially labeled the incident as an “attack” and continued to add that it demonstrates that France is “still targeted.”