* Man shot dead said he was there to "die for Allah" -
* Terrorism investigation opened
* Father denies his son was a "terrorist"
* Election candidates express alarm at Orly incident
By Yann Le Guernigou and Gus Trompiz
PARIS, March 19 Police on Sunday questioned
relatives of a man shot dead by soldiers at a Paris airport as
they sought clues about why he tried to seize an assault rifle
in an incident that has pushed security to the top of France's
Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said late on Saturday that
the man, named as 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, had shouted he
was there to "die for Allah" when he tried to seize the gun from
a woman air force member on patrol at Orly airport.
After throwing down a bag containing a can of petrol and
putting an air pistol to the head of the soldier, he was shot
three times by her colleagues.
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. These include coordinated bombings and
shootings in November 2015 in Paris when 130 people were killed
and scores injured.
With the country in the throes of a highly-charged election
campaign before a two-round presidential election in April and
May, the attacks fuelled the political debate about security.
Belgacem, who had been in and out of prison for theft and
drug offences according to judicial sources, was already on the
authorities' radar. They said he became a radicalised Muslim
when he served a prison term several years ago for
He had been reporting regularly to police under the terms of
a provisional release from custody for theft and he did not have
the right to leave the country.
Several hours earlier before he was killed, Belgacem had
shot and wounded a police officer with his air pistol after a
routine traffic stop north of Paris before fleeing, officials
Later he entered a bar in Vitry-sur-Seine on the other side
of Paris and opened fire with his air gun without hitting
anyone. He also stole a car before arriving at the airport.
"I SCREWED UP"
Belgacem's father, who was initially detained by police but
then released, denied his son had been involved in terrorism.
"My son has never been a terrorist. He has never prayed: he
drinks. And, under the influence of alcohol and cannabis, this
is what happens," the father, whose name was not given, told
He said he had received a phone call from his son in which
Belgacem referred to shooting the police officer, saying: "I ask
your forgiveness. I screwed up with a policeman."
Police said they were questioning a brother and cousin of
Belgacem and an autopsy on the dead man would be carried out.
Molins said on Saturday they would be examining his telephone to
establish with whom he had been in contact.
Belgacem was born in Paris, according to the prosecutor.
French media said his family was of Tunisian origin.
Presidential candidates responded swiftly to the incident.
Conservative Francois Fillon said that France was in a
"situation of virtual civil war" and spoke out against a
proposal to lift a state of emergency in place since the
November 2015 attacks.
Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, running on an
anti-immigration, anti-EU ticket, said the Orly attacker could
have caused a "massacre".
"Our government is overwhelmed, stunned, paralysed like a
rabbit in the headlights," she told an election rally.
(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Keith Weir)