Man killed after trying to grab Paris airport soldier’s gun

Travellers walk on the highway to the Orly airport, south of Paris, Saturday, March, 18, 2017. (AP)

ORLY, France (AP) — Soldiers at Paris’ busy Orly Aiport shot and killed a man who wrestled one of their colleagues to the ground and tried to steal her rifle Saturday, officials said.

No one else was hurt, but thousands of travelers were evacuated and at least 15 flights were diverted to the city’s other airport, Charles de Gaulle.

Police did not immediately provide a motive for the attack. The Paris prosecutor’s office said its anti-terrorism division was handling the investigation and had taken the attacker’s father and brother into custody for questioning.

The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the attacker, whom he did not identify, assaulted three Air Force soldiers who were patrolling the airport. He said the soldier who was attacked managed to hold on to her rifle and the two soldiers she was with opened fire to protect her and the public.

It happened around 8:30 a.m. Paris time in a public area of the airport’s South Terminal, before passengers must show tickets or go through security.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said the attacker had stolen a woman’s car earlier in the morning in a northern Paris suburb. Le Roux said police and intelligence services know who he is, though the Paris prosecutor’s office said he did not appear in a French government database of people considered potential threats to national security.

In the earlier incident, the Paris police office said, a man fired birdshot at officers during a traffic stop, wounding one in the face. He then fled and stole the woman’s car after threatening her with a weapon. That car was later found near Orly.

Officials said about 3,000 people were evacuated from Orly, where passengers told of gunshots and panic. Traffic was jammed near the airport and people wheeled suitcases down the road.

People on 13 flights that landed around the time the drama was unfolding had to stay on planes for several hours. Augustin de Romanet, president of the ADP airport authority, said they were allowed off around noon, once a search of the airport was complete.

In the airport, a witness identified only as Dominque said on BFM television: “The soldiers took aim at the man, who in turn pointed the gun he had seized at the two soldiers.”

Another man said on BFM that three soldiers were targeted, and they tried to calm the man who seized the weapon. Then the man said he heard two gunshots.

The soldier who was attacked is part of the Sentinelle special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks. The force includes 7,500 soldiers, half deployed in the Paris region and half in the provinces.

Saturday was at least the fourth time that Sentinelle soldiers have been targeted since the force was created. It was set up after the attack January 2015 attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and reinforced after the assaults that left 130 people dead in Paris in November of that year.

Orly is Paris’ second-biggest airport, behind Charles de Gaulle. It has both domestic and international flights, notably to destinations in Europe and Africa.

The shooting comes after a similar incident last month at the Louvre Museum in which an Egyptian man attacked soldiers guarding the site and was shot and wounded. It also comes just days before the first anniversary of attacks on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.