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Father of French airport attack suspect: 'Son was not a terrorist'

By
Allen Cone
Armed police special intervention units move into position at Orly airport near Paris on Saturday. Ben Belgacem grabbed a female soldier on patrol and put a gun to her head before he was shot dead by her two colleagues. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA
Armed police special intervention units move into position at Orly airport near Paris on Saturday. Ben Belgacem grabbed a female soldier on patrol and put a gun to her head before he was shot dead by her two colleagues. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA

March 19 (UPI) -- The father of the suspect shot dead after an attack at Orly airport in Paris says his son was "not a terrorist."

"He never prayed and he drank. This is what happens under the influence of drink and cannabis," the unidentified father of Ziyed Ben Belgacem said in an interview with France's Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

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On Saturday, Belgacem, 39, put a gun to a female soldier on patrol. And according to soldiers, shouted: "Put down your weapons! Put your hands on your head! I am here to die for Allah. Whatever happens, there will be deaths."

Two nearby soldiers shot the attacker dead, prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters.

Two hours before the airport attack, Ben Belgacem fired on police who pulled him over for speeding. Belgacem had apparently spent the night at a bar, authorities said. Belgacem has several armed robbery convictions.

The father said his son called him minutes after shooting the police officer "in a state of extreme agitation."

"He said to me: 'Daddy, please forgive me. I've screwed up with a police officer."

"I said I didn't forgive him 'because you hurt a policeman.'"

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He then cut short the conversation. The son drove to the airport, stealing another car along the way.

The father appeared at a police station, where he was informed his son had died.

Belgacem's brother and a cousin were still being questioned.

Molins said an investigation will try to determine whether he acted as a "lone wolf."

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