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Shooting at France’s Orly Airport Prompts Evacuation and Halt to Flights


Security forces outside of Orly Airport near Paris on Saturday. Credit Thibault Camus/Associated Press..

PARIS — A man who attacked a soldier at Orly Airport outside Paris on Saturday was fatally shot in what the Paris Prosecutor’s office said it was investigating as a possible terrorism incident that came shortly after the man shot a police officer during a routine traffic stop.

The shooting at Orly prompted the partial evacuation of the airport, the diversion of all flights, and a sweep to determine whether the suspect left any explosives at Orly’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-les-Gonesse and fired a pistol loaded with birdshot and fled. He then carjacked a vehicle in Vitry and drove to the airport, where he attacked a female soldier who was part of a three-soldier unit from Operation Sentinel that was patrolling the airport, according to Jean-Yves Le Drian, the defense minister. Two soldiers opened fire as he attaked, killing him.

A spokeswoman for the Paris Prosecutor’s office said this morning its antiterrorism unit had opened an investigation along with the French Intelligence Service into the events.

The incident was reminiscent of a similar attack in February near the Louvre Museum that forced the museum to close. In that case the attacker, brandishing two long knives, attacked soldiers patrolling in the Carrousel du Louvre, an underground shopping mall that lies between the subway station closest to the museum and one of the museum’s entrances. He injured a soldier before he was shot several times.

Saturday’s incident comes as France is in the midst of a heated presidential election campaign, with the first round of voting just five weeks away on April 23.

Operation Sentinel, the unit that was the target of the airport attack, involves 10,000 soldiers who patrol public areas in France including airports, areas near large tourist attractions and train stations, among other high-profile locations.

The French Interior Ministry confirmed that special operations police who also deal with terrorism were at the airport and asked people who were in the area to stay away from the security perimeter. Explosive experts were also on the scene and completed their inspection by noon.

France continues to be on heightened vigilance after the November 2015 terror attacks that killed 130 people, including 89 people at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris, and an attack in Nice last July that killed 86 people when the driver of a truck mowed down people in a crowd who had gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks.

The top government official in the area of the airport, the prefect of Val-de-Marnes, asked passengers on their way to Orly to stay away for the time being.

Orly is one of the two large international airports in the Paris region. It handles most domestic fights as well as some international ones and served 31.2 million passengers in 2016, according to Paris Airport authority.

The Paris airport authority said that traffic would resume soon at Orly-West, but that the other main terminal, Orly Sud, would remain closed so that the prosecutor’s office could conduct its investigation there.

Source: NYT > World

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