'I screwed up,' Orly Airport attacker told father before assault

France airport evacuated in police operation

Ziyed Ben Belgacem, born in France to Tunisian parents, was killed Saturday morning after grabbing a female soldier and putting a gun to her head.

The attack forced Orly to shut down, sent passengers fleeing in panic and trapped hundreds aboard flights that had just landed.

The prosecutor added that, according to soldiers, the attacker yelled: "Put down your weapons!"

French prosecutor Francois Molins said Belgacem had been flagged as having been radicalised during a spell in detention in 2011-2012.

He said he had received a phone call from Belgacem after his initial attack in which he said: "Dad, please forgive me".

Police sources told French media that the airport shooting may have been linked to a separate incident in the Paris suburb of Stains.

Belgacem then threatened people in a bar before stealing a auto at gunpoint and driving to the airport.

Identity documents found on the attacker matched those presented by the man who fired at police in Garges-les-Gonesse.

Prosecutors said Belgacem's father had been released from police custody on Saturday night, but his brother and a cousin were still being questioned.

Saturday's train of events began at Stains, near Le Bourget airport in northern Paris, where the man fled in a vehicle after he shot and wounded a police officer at a road check.

Around 3,000 people were evacuated from Orly airport following Saturday's incident.

Molins said the assailant meant to open fire on the crowd of travelers.

What started as a lone gunman firing at police on the outskirts of Paris ended in two hours with a suspected Islamic extremist taking a soldier hostage and then being shot dead in France's second-busiest airport, according to a senior official.

More than 230 people have died in France in the past two years at the hands of attackers allied to the militant Islamist group Islamic State, whose strongholds in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by an worldwide coalition including France.

France continues to be on heightened vigilance after the November 2015 terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, including 90 at the Bataclan nightclub in Paris, and an attack in Nice last July that killed 86 people when the driver of a truck plowed into a crowd of people who had gathered to watch Bastille Day fireworks.

At that point shots were fired and the man was killed.

Police fired back. He fled in his auto.

By Sunday afternoon, air traffic had returned to normal completely.

It is not random to choose to attack patrolling soldiers from the Operation Sentinelle. The force includes 7,500 soldiers, half deployed in the Paris region and half in the provinces.

When Belgacem got to Orly's south terminal, he carried a pellet gun and a can of a flammable substance in his rucksack, which he threw to the ground before attacking the patrolwoman and holding the gun to her temple.

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