Airport shooting reignites security debate before French election

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The 39-year-old had a blood alcohol level of 0.93 grams per litre, nearly twice the legal driving limit in France, and had also taken cannabis and cocaine, AFP news agency reported, citing judicial sources. It was the violent climax of what authorities described as a 90-minute spree of destructive criminality across the French capital by the suspect, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem.

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said at a press conference that the man was known to the police and intelligence services.

According to Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins, the suspect had been imprisoned several times on violence and theft convictions, including one five-year stint that began in 2009.

Ben Belgacem, 39, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly's southern terminal on Saturday morning and put a gun to her head as he seized her rifle, saying he wanted to "die for Allah". He tried again to use her as a shield, but a third shot killed him at 8:25 am, Molins said.

A police search of his flat found traces of cocaine, Mr Molins said.

Belgacem's father told Europe 1 radio today that his son was not a terrorist. He never attended prayer. The man had earlier fled the suburb of Stains on Saturday in a vehicle stolen from a woman at gunpoint after opening fire on officers, injuring one, during an identity check.

The searches - authorized under France's official "state of emergency", passed after the Paris attacks - have been frequently criticized as violating the civil liberties of those searched and detained, and rights advocates have pushed the government to define "Islamist radicalism" more clearly. French media said his family was of Tunisian origin.

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The father was released from police custody overnight on Saturday, while Belgacem's brother and a cousin were released later on Sunday. The stolen auto was recovered at the airport, French authorities said.

Paris is on high alert after yesterday's two attacks. These include coordinated bombings and shootings in November 2015 in Paris when 130 people were killed and scores injured.

About 100 people who were unable to board flights slept at Orly in beds provided by the airport, while 200 others spent the night at hotels provided by airlines.

He later entered a bar where he was a regular customer in Vitry-sur-Seine on the other side of Paris, and opened fire with his air gun without hitting anyone.

His father revealed he had called and said: "I ask for your forgiveness".

In mid-February, a machete-wielding Egyptian attacked soldiers on patrol outside the Louvre museum in Paris, slightly injuring one of them, before being shot and wounded.

The anti-terrorism prosecutor is investigating the motives and circumstances of Saturday's attack and the existence of any accomplices, according to a presidential statement.

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