Paris Orly airport shooting: 'Radicalised Muslim' sent chilling text to family after shooting police officer in face

Mark Chandler

A "radicalised Muslim" who was shot dead at a Paris airport sent a chilling text message to his family minutes after blasting a police officer in the face.

The man, named by local media as Ziyed B, texted his family saying "I shot the police", BFM TV reported.

Soldiers at Paris's Orly Aiport shot dead the man dead after he wrestled one of their colleagues to the ground and tried to steal her rifle, officials said. Police have now launched a terror probe.

Thousands of travellers were evacuated and at least 15 flights were diverted to the city's other airport, Charles de Gaulle. No-one else was hurt in the incident.

Terror probe: Soldiers at the airport (AP)

Police did not immediately provide a motive or identify the attacker, but the Paris prosecutor's office said he was 39 and had a record of robbery and drug offences.

Earlier, a police source described him as a "radicalised Muslim" who was on a security watchlist.

However, the prosecutor's office said he did not appear in a French government database of people considered potential threats to national security.

Earlier on Saturday, he had fired at officers during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb, wounding one in the face, then stole a woman's car at gunpoint. It was found later near Orly.

Shot: The man lies on the terminal floor (AP)

The prosecutor's office said its anti-terrorism division is handling the investigation and has taken the attacker's father and brother into custody for questioning.

The incident further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past two years that have killed 235 people.

Saturday’s shooting came as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued their tour of the French capital and met survivors of the Isis terror attack at the Bataclan.

Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the attacker assaulted three soldiers patrolling the airport. He said the soldier who was attacked managed to hold on to her rifle and the two others she was with opened fire to protect her and the public.

Lockdown: Armed police at the airport (EPA)

A spokesman for the force later said that she was shocked but not hurt.

It happened in a public area of the airport's South Terminal, before passengers show tickets or go through security.

Officials said about 3,000 people were evacuated from Orly, where passengers told of gunshots and panic.

People on 13 flights that landed around the time the drama was unfolding had to stay on planes for several hours. Augustin de Romanet, president of the ADP airport authority, said they were allowed off around noon, once a search of the airport was complete.

A witness identified only as Dominque told BFM Television that the attacker held the soldier by the throat and held her arm and her weapon.

"We saw it was a serious situation so we escaped," he said. "We went down the stairs and right after we heard two gunshots."

Taxi driver Youssef Mouhajra was picking up passengers at Orly when he heard shots, which he first thought were just a warning.

"We have become accustomed to this kind of warning and to having the soldiers there," he said.

Then he said he saw people rushing out of the terminal.

"I told (the passengers) 'let's get out of here'," he said. As he drove away, he saw soldiers and police rushing towards the airport.

The soldier who was attacked is part of the Sentinelle special force deployed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks. The force has 7,500 soldiers, half deployed in the Paris region and half in the provinces.