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Father of Paris Orly assailant says son was no terrorist

The father of the man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after seizing a soldier's gun says his son was no jihadi terrorist. Prosecutors have described the slain attacker as a "violent individual" with terrorist instincts.

The father of Ziyed Ben Belgacem told French radio on Sunday that drugs and alcohol had caused his son's violent behavior.

"There's no way my son was a terrorist," he told Europe 1 radio. "He never prayed and he drank. This is what happens under the influence of drink and cannabis."

Ben Belgacem was killed by security forces on Saturday morning after he attacked a soldier at Orly airport in southern Paris and took her gun. Hours earlier, the 39-year-old Frenchman had fired on police in a northern Paris suburb during a routine traffic stop, injuring one officer.

Paris Flughafen Orly Terror PK Staatsanwalt Francois Molins (Getty Images/AFP/T. Samson)

Prosecutor Molins: Ben Belgacem harbored terrorist instincts

The man's father, who was released from police custody on Sunday after being questioned, said his son phoned him immediately after the shooting "in a state of extreme agitation."

"He said to me: 'Daddy, please forgive me. I've screwed up with a police officer.'"

His father then contacted police. Ben Belgacem's brother and cousin, who also came forward for questioning, remain in custody.

A postmortem is being carried out on the man's body to establish whether he had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 

Watch video 00:35

Terror 'likely' motive in Paris airport attack

Radicalization in prison

Speaking at a press conference late Saturday, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins described Ben Belgacem as an "an extremely violent individual" who had shouted that he was ready "to die for Allah" before being shot dead at Orly airport.  

Born in Paris, Ben Belgacem was known to French authorities and had a string of convictions for theft and drug offenses. In 2001, he was sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery. In 2009, he was back in jail for drug trafficking.

Molins told reporters it was between 2011 and 2012 that officials noticed "signs of radicalization" in the inmate. But although Ben Belgacem was on the police radar, he wasn't considered a serious threat. He had also been under judicial monitoring since his most recent release from prison in September.

Frankreich Flughafen Paris Orly, Angreifer auf Soldaten erschossen (Getty Images/AFP/C. Simon)

The attack at Paris Orly airport prompted flight cancellations and thousands of passengers to be evacuated

'A real devil'

Investigators working to establish a motive for the attack searched Ben Belgacem's sixth-floor apartment in the northeastern Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse on Saturday. They found several grams of cocaine and a machete.

Residents of the building told AFP he was a withdrawn, serious man. "The last time I saw him was three days ago. He had a determined air, as if he wanted to fight with his family or colleagues," neighbor Hamid said.

"He always wore sports clothes. He has a scary face, a real devil," another neighbor, Hatice, said.

Security scare, travel chaos

After firing shots at police in northern Paris and placing a call to his father, Ben Belgacem highjacked a car at gunpoint and headed to a nearby Italian-Cuban bar he frequented, firing more shots without injuring anyone. He then drove to Orly airport with a can of petrol and a Koran in his bag.

Watch video 01:50

Orly attacker ready "to die for Allah"

France has opened an anti-terrorist probe into Saturday’s events. The attack triggered an airport shutdown with flights canceled and thousands of people evacuated from the building.  

The incident came weeks before presidential elections in France, which remains under a state of emergency following a string of terror attacks that have claimed more than 230 lives since January 2015.

nm/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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