A man was shot dead by security forces after seizing a soldier’s gun at Paris Orly airport on Saturday while in a separate incident a police officer was shot and injured north of the French capital, the French Interior Ministry said.
The incident is being investigated as a terrorist attack
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The airport has been shut down after what the authorities said was an extremely serious incident and passengers not allowed to disembark. Witnesses told the AFP news agency that the airport was evacuated soon after the shooting. “We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby,” Franck Lecam said.
A picture of the shooter, who was described by police sources to Reuters as a “radicalized Muslim”, has emerged:
A bomb sweep took place at the airport to make sure the dead man was not wearing an explosive belt, but nothing was found, Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Reuters.
“The man succeeded in seizing the weapon of a soldier. He was quickly neutralized by the security forces,” Brandet said.
“A police road check took place in Stains (northern Paris) this morning at 7am. It turned bad and the individual shot at the officers before fleeing,” he added.
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A security operation is continuing at the airport with bomb disposal experts involved and a search for any possible accomplices. Police say the dead man was not carrying any explosives. No one else was injured in the incident at 8.30am local time (7.30am GMT), which came little over an hour after shots were fired at police by an unknown gunman in a northern Paris suburb.
According to the Independent, a police source told Reuters the same man, described as a radicalised Muslim known to security services, carried out both attacks.
Police have warned people to stay away from the security cordon put in place and people intending to travel to Orly have been advised to make alternative arrangements as all flights in and out of the airport have been suspended. Officials say the man approached a group of soldiers patrolling the airport and made off with the gun into a shop. At that point shots were fired and the man was killed. His motivation is not yet known.
A police officer was also injured after being shot during a routine road check in an earlier incident in Stains, north of Paris. Brandet said it was not clear if the two incidents were linked, although French BFM and M6 television networks said it was the same individual.
It is reported that the shooter had been well-known to police, intelligence services.
#BREAKING Man shot dead at Paris airport was ‘known to police, intelligence services’: minister
— AFP news agency (@AFP) March 18, 2017
According to BBC, police sources say the man was the same as one involved in an earlier incident in the northern suburbs of Paris, where a police officer was shot and injured during a vehicle check. The suspect then escaped in a vehicle. French media reports said that a car used by the suspect was later found abandoned at the airport.
The incidents come weeks before France holds presidential elections. The country remains on high alert after attacks by Islamic State militants killed scores of people in the last two years and a state of emergency is in place until at least the end of July.
Around 3,000 passengers were evacuated from the airport, the second busiest in the country. Flights were suspended from both terminals of the airport and some flights were diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport north of the capital, airport operator ADP said.