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Paris airport attacker had long criminal record


MAR 19, (DNA) -The Paris airport attacker who tried to take a soldier hostage before being shot dead had a long criminal record, French anti-terror officials have said.

Zied Ben Belgacem shot and wounded a police officer in northern Paris before travelling across the city to Orly airport, where he was killed after holding a gun to the soldier’s head. He had been on a security watchlist.

Paris prosecutor François Molins said Belgacem had grabbed the female soldier from behind at 8.22am. He placed his left arm across her throat and put a 9mm pellet gun pistol against her temple.

Pulling her back and using her as a human shield, he ordered her two male colleagues to put down their weapons and raise their hands telling them: “I am here to die for Allah … in any case there will be deaths”.

The reservist, said to be in her 20s, fought back and the man forced her to her knees as he attempted to wrest her Famas assault rifle from her.

He initially succeeded before she grabbed it back; then he snatched it a second time. As she dropped to the ground, her two colleagues were able to shoot him dead.

The soldiers were part of the Sentinelle special forces, an elite military group installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly extremist attacks.

Molins said: “The struggle lasted two minutes. He struggled to get the [soldier’s] weapon. He did not give up.” The prosecutor praised the “sang-froid, control and efficiency” of the soldiers.

Belgacem, 39, a French national, had a long criminal record, Molins said, mostly for drug dealing, armed robbery, theft and receiving stolen goods. He had spent some time in prison where he is believed to have been radicalised. He was known to the intelligence services for his links to radical Islamists, Molins said.

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