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French soldiers shoot, kill colleague's captor

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ORLY, France -- A 39-year-old Frenchman attacked a soldier Saturday morning at a Paris airport and wrested away her assault-style rifle, a French prosecutor said.

Two colleagues on the soldier's patrol shot and killed the man before he could fire the military-grade weapon in the busy airport terminal.

"Her two comrades thought it was necessary -- and they were right -- to open fire to protect her and especially to protect all the people who were around," French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The attack forced Orly Airport's terminals to evacuate, sent passengers and workers fleeing in panic and trapped hundreds of others aboard flights that had just landed. It was the climax of what authorities described as a 90-minute crime rampage across the French capital by the suspect, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem.

Stopped first by police in Paris' northern suburbs for driving too fast and without lights in a small Renault, Belgacem opened fire with a revolver loaded with birdshot, injuring an officer in the face, authorities said.

He then fled by car to a bar and again opened fire, authorities said. No one was injured.

Finally, in another car stolen at gunpoint, he parked at Orly. A few minutes later, he hurled himself at the three soldiers on patrol in its South Terminal, throwing a bag with a gas can at the floor and wielding his 9mm revolver, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

He then positioned the female soldier as a shield and pointed his revolver at her head, Molins said.

According to the 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," Molins said.

The attacker managed to wrest free the captive soldier's Famas rifle and sling it over his shoulder. Molins said he "wanted to take the Famas so there would be deaths and to shoot people."

Between the moments when he ducked behind his hostage, the other soldiers fired three bursts, eight rounds in all, that killed the attacker, Molins said.

Information for this article was contributed by Angela Charlton, Samuel Petrequin, Nicolas Vaux-Montagny and Jan M. Olsen of The Associated Press.

A Section on 03/19/2017

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