Yelling that he wanted to kill and die for Allah, a suspected Islamic extremist attacked a French soldier Saturday morning at Paris' Orly Airport and wrested away her assault rifle, a French prosecutor said. Two colleagues on her patrol shot and killed the man before he could fire the military-grade weapon in the busy airport terminal.
The attack forced the airport's terminals to shut down and evacuate, sent passengers and workers fleeing in panic and trapped hundreds of others aboard flights that had just landed. It was the violent climax of what authorities described as a 90-minute spree of destructive criminality across the French capital by the suspect, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem.
The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.
Orly, Paris' second-biggest airport behind Charles de Gaulle, has both domestic and international flights and the 8:30 a.m. (0730 GMT; 4:30 a.m. EDT) assault brought its operations to a screeching halt.
Stopped first by police in Paris' northern suburbs early Saturday morning for driving too fast and without lights in a small Renault, the 39-year-old Frenchman opened fire with a revolver loaded with bird shot, injuring an officer in the face, authorities said.
He then fled by car to a bar that he frequented regularly and where he had already stopped a few hours earlier and again opened fire. No one was injured.
Finally, in another car stolen at gunpoint, he parked at Orly. A few minutes later, he hurled himself at three soldiers on patrol in its South Terminal, throwing a bag with a gas can at the floor and wielding his 9 mm revolver, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.
"With a pistol in his right hand and a bag over his shoulder, he grabbed (the soldier) with his left arm, made her move backward by three to four meters (yards), positioning her as a shield, and pointed his revolver at her forehead," Molins said.
According to soldiers, the attacker yelled: "Put down your weapons! Put your hands on your head! I am here to die for Allah. Whatever happens, there will be deaths," Molins said.
In a struggle, the attacker managed to wrest free the captive soldier's Famas assault rifle and sling it over his shoulder. Molins said video surveillance footage appeared to show that Belgacem was "determined to see the process through to the end."
"Everything suggests that he wanted to take the Famas so there would be deaths and to shoot people," he said.
In between the moments when he ducked behind his hostage, the two other soldiers fired three bursts, eight rounds in all, that killed the attacker, Molins said.
"Her two comrades thought it was necessary — and they were right — to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around," said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.