An attack at Paris’ Orly airport on Saturday morning that left one man dead after he assaulted a patrol of three air force soldiers has become a terrorism investigation.
The Paris prosecutors’ office confirmed that its anti-terrorism section has taken over the investigation.
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.
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No one else in the busy terminal was hurt, but thousands of travelers were evacuated and flights were diverted to the city’s other airport.
Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said the man was linked with a carjacking earlier in the morning in a northern Paris suburb and that police and intelligence services know who he is.
In that incident, the Paris police office said, a man fired birdshot at officers who stopped him during a traffic stop, wounding one in the face. He then fled and stole a woman’s car after threatening her with a weapon. That car was found near Orly.
A police source described him as a radicalized Muslim but did not identify him by name, according to Reuters.
French national police said that only one man was involved in the airport attack and denied reports of a possible second attacker.
No information about the slain man or any other injuries have been officially released.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene.
A witness identified only as Dominque told BFM television: “The soldiers took aim at the man, who in turn pointed the gun he had seized at the two soldiers.”
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Another witness, identified as Patrick, said he was at the check-in counter when he saw someone come in from outside and the incident began.
A French journalist on a flight that landed from Nice told France-Info radio passengers are being kept on the plane and aren’t being allowed to disembark.
A national police official said the soldiers are part of the Sentinel special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.
Police warned visitors to avoid the airport while the police operation was underway. Emergency vehicles surrounded the airport as confused passengers gathered in parking lots, and the elite RAID special police force worked to secure the airport.
An airport authority official said flights to and from Orly are being redirected to Charles de Gaulle airport.
Orly is Paris’ second-biggest airport behind Charles de Gaulle, serving domestic and international flights, notably to destinations in Europe and Africa.
The shooting came 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.
The incident also comes just days after a letter bomb exploded at the International Monetary Fund offices in Paris. One person was injured.
The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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