ORLY, France (AP) — A man was shot dead Saturday after wrestling a soldier to the ground at Paris’ Orly Airport and trying to take her rifle, officials said. 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.
Police did not provide a motive for the attack but the Paris prosecutors’ office said its anti-terrorism division was taking 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.
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.
French national police said that only one man was involved in the airport attack and denied reports of a possible second attacker.
Officials said about 3,000 people were being evacuated from Orly, where passengers told of gunshots and panic. Traffic was jammed near the airport and people were wheeling suitcases down the road.
A witness identified only as Dominque said on BFM television: “The soldiers took aim at the man, who in turn pointed the gun he had seized at the two soldiers.”
Another man said on BFM that three soldiers were targeted, and they tried to calm the man who seized the weapon. Then the man said he heard two gunshots.
The soldier who was attacked is part of the Sentinelle special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks. The force includes 7,500 soldiers, half deployed in the Paris region and half in the provinces.
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.
Saturday’s attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people. It also comes just days before the first anniversary ofattacks on the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people and wounded hundreds of others.