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Man shot dead in suspected terror attack at Paris's Orly airport

A suspected Islamist extremist has been shot and killed at Paris's Orly airport after attacking a soldier. French prosecutors said the man professed he wanted to "die for Allah."

A man was shot dead at Paris's Orly airport on Saturday after attacking a female soldier and using her as a human shield, in what French authorities are investigating as a possible terror attack.

Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a 39-year-old French national, reportedly said he wanted to die for Allah as he held a pistol to the soldier's head, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference.

"Put your weapons down, hands on your heads. I'm here to die for Allah. In any case, people are going to die," Belgacem told two other soldiers on patrol, according to Molins.

The female soldier then dropped to her knees, allowing two of her colleagues to shoot the assailant.

Molins said the attacker had attempted to grab a military assault rifle from the female soldier and wanted to go on a rampage at the airport.

A search of Ben Belgacem's backpack found a can of gasoline and a Quran, Molins said.

Watch video 00:51

Assailant killed at a Paris airport

Officials said Ben Belgacem was known to the police for a string of theft and drug offenses. They said he had also previously been investigated for radicalization after serving two prison sentences.

Molins said Ben Belgacem had shot at police in a northern Paris suburb earlier in the day after a routine traffic stop, injuring one officer. He later highjacked another car at gunpoint and parked it at Orly. He also stopped by a bar he regularly frequented, firing more shots without injuring anyone. 

The man's father, brother and cousin have been taken into custody for questioning after contacting police.

A police search of Ben Belgacem's apartment found a machete and several grams of cocaine.    

The security scare forced thousands of passengers to evacuate the airport, the French capital's second-largest after Charles de Gaulle. Flights were also suspended until resuming in the afternoon following a security sweep.

The shooting comes 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.

French President Francois Hollande said investigators would determine whether the attacker was involved in "a terrorist plot." Hollande ruled out any link between the attack and the upcoming French presidential elections.

cw/sms (AFP, AP)

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