A man who attacked a soldier at Orly Airport outside Paris on Saturday was fatally shot in what the Paris prosecutor’s office is treating as a possible act of terrorism. The attack occurred shortly after the man shot at a police officer during a routine traffic stop in a Paris suburb, the French interior minister said.
The shooting at Orly prompted a partial evacuation of the airport, the diversion of all flights and a security sweep to determine whether the assailant had left any explosives at the airport’s two terminals, officials said. Incoming flights were diverted to nearby Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The chain of events started when the man was stopped by the police in a routine identity check at 6:50 a.m. in the Paris suburb of Garges-lès-Gonesse, Bruno Le Roux, the interior minister, said. The man fired a pistol loaded with birdshot and fled. One police officer sustained minor injuries.
The assailant then carjacked a vehicle in Vitry-sur-Seine, about eight miles north of Orly Airport, and drove to the airport, where he attacked a female soldier who was part of a three-soldier unit patrolling the airport, said Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defense minister. Two soldiers opened fire on the man as he attacked, killing him.
A spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Saturday morning that its antiterrorism unit and the French Intelligence Service had opened an investigation into the events.
The authorities did not release the man’s name, but the spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said he was 39 years old and had a long police record, including arrests for robbery and drug-related offenses. She said that the police had taken both his brother and father into custody for questioning.
The episode was reminiscent of an attack in February near the Louvre in which a man with two long knives attacked soldiers patrolling in the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping mall. The man injured a soldier before being shot several times.
The episode on Saturday came amid a heated presidential election campaign in France, with the first round of voting just five weeks away, on April 23.
Any terrorist attack so close to the election, political analysts suggest, could be seen as an opportunity by the candidates of the far right, Marine Le Pen, and the center right, François Fillion, to berate the current Socialist government and by association Emmanuel Macron, the center-left candidate, who was previously the economy minister, for failing to protect the French people.
SOURCE: ALISSA J. RUBIN
The New York Times