Monday 26 June 2017

Paris airport attacker post-mortem examination completed

A riot police officer patrols inside Orly airport, as flights resumed (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
A riot police officer patrols inside Orly airport, as flights resumed (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)
A riot police officer patrols inside the airport (Kamil Zihnioglu/AP)

French officials have completed a post-mortem examination to determine whether a suspected Islamic extremist was drunk or high on drugs when he took a soldier hostage in Paris and was shot dead by her fellow patrolmen.

Suspect Ziyed Ben Belgacem stopped at a bar early on Saturday, about four hours before he first fired bird shot at traffic police.

About 90 minutes later he attacked the military patrol at Orly Airport, causing panic and the shutdown of the French capital's second-biggest airport.

A subsequent police search of his flat found cocaine, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

Blood samples taken during Sunday's post-mortem examination were to be screened for drugs and alcohol, the prosecutors' office said.

In an interview on Sunday with French radio Europe 1, a man identified as the suspect's father said Belgacem was not a practising Muslim and drank alcohol.

"My son was never a terrorist. He never attended prayer. He drank. But under the effects of alcohol and cannabis, this is where one ends up," said the father. Europe 1 did not give his name.

The Paris prosecutor's office, which is in charge of the probe, said Belgacem's father was released from police custody overnight. His brother and a cousin also were released on Sunday.

In a news conference on Saturday, Mr Molins said Belgacem called his father and brother early that morning, minutes after he fired bird shot at a police traffic patrol, injuring an officer in the face, to say he had made a stupid mistake.

"He called me at seven, eight in the morning and said, 'there you go, Papa'. He was extremely angry, even his mother couldn't understand him," the man identified as the father said on Europe 1.

The 39-year-old Frenchman had a long criminal record, with multiple jail terms for drugs and robbery offences.

Mr Molins said Belgacem was out on bail, banned from leaving France and obliged to report regularly to police, having been handed preliminary charges for robberies in 2016.

He was also flagged as having been radicalised during a spell in detention from 2011-2012, Mr Molins said.

His house was among scores searched in November 2015 in the immediate aftermath of suicide bomb-and-gun attacks that killed 130 people in Paris.

Yelling that he wanted to kill and die for Allah, Belgacem wrestled away the soldier's assault rifle during the Saturday-morning airport attack but was shot and killed by her two colleagues before he could fire the weapon in Orly's busy South Terminal.

According to soldiers, the attacker yelled: "Put down your weapons! Put your hands on your head! I am here to die for Allah. Whatever happens, there will be deaths," Mr Molins added.

The attack forced both of the airport's terminals to shut down and evacuate, sent passengers and workers fleeing in panic and trapped hundreds of others aboard flights that had just landed.

It was the violent climax of what authorities described as a 90-minute spree of destructive criminality across Paris by the suspect.

AP

Press Association

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