Some family members detained after attack at Paris airport

20 Mar 2017By Gareth


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SBS World News Radio: French police have released the father of a man shot dead while allegedly trying to take a soldier's weapon at Orly Airport near Paris on the weekend.

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With France mourning the deaths of more than 230 people attributed to terrorism in two years, the latest incident near Paris has prompted more questions about security and defence.

But Parisians shocked by the news of the Orly Airport shooting were determined not to let the ongoing threat undermine their daily lives.

"Yes, the attacks are scary, but you can't stop yourself from living. You have to live and do as usual. Be careful, but you mustn't stop living. Otherwise, everyone stops living and it's a blackout, so, rather, be careful but keep on living."

Another resident, giving her name only as Marianne, says the country's diversity must be preserved.

"I think people of different religions, ethnicities, sexuality, et cetera, can live together. That diversity is our wealth, and it must be defended, and that's all there is to it. It has to be defended, and each of us must be vigilant in protecting those who aren't listened to, those who aren't represented."

Thirty-nine year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem was shot dead at Orly Airport after, authorities say, he tried to seize a soldier's assault rifle with the intention of opening fire on passengers.

Prosecutors have told reporters he tried to use a female soldier as a shield, shouting, "I am here to die in the name of Allah ... There will be deaths."

Two soldiers then shot him in the head.

A member of the police trade union says the man's actions appear to have been well-planned.

"We can tell it's been already orchestrated. His tracking marks show it. He was waiting for the patrols to arrive. He hides in a nearby shop, and, once he sees the soldiers, he stands behind them immediately. There's a lot of precipitation. Everything runs quickly. And, in an instant, he grabs the woman soldier by the neck in a strangulation movement. We could tell by then he was very determined."

The incident is being treated as an attempted terrorist attack.

This woman told the BBC she was at the airport when it all unfolded, and she describes what she saw.

"We heard loud sounds, and people started running, and we were confused at first about what was happening. There (were) several people yelling at us to run the other way. So we went outside and were evacuated, and we waited outside for about an hour. None of the officials really told us what was going on."

Authorities say Ziyed Ben Belgacem had a criminal record and was already under investigation from the Sentinel special force installed around France after a string of deadly attacks.

He first came to attention when he was serving a prison term several years ago for drug-trafficking.

Prosecutors are investigating a number of terrorism-related offences they say he may have been involved in, including attempted murder.

And while a potentially major attack was thwarted, the incident has thrust the security issue further into the political spotlight in the midst of a fiercely fought French presidential campaign.


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