by Gabriella Pisano ’18
A total of 1,441 terrorist attacks occurred worldwide in 2016. These attacks resulted in 14,356 fatalities. Though it is less than three months into 2017, there have already been 293 attacks with a total of 1,873 fatalities.
One of the most recent attacks is attributed to terrorism occurred on Saturday, March 18, in Paris, France. Paris is no stranger to terrorist attacks, with the November 2015 attack that claimed the lives of 137 people. While the shooting that occurred at the Paris Orly Airport on Saturday only had one fatality— that of the attacker— it brought the topic of terrorism to the forefront of the news.
Ziyed Ben Belgacem, a French native, committed a string of attacks leading up to the incident at the airport. Early on Saturday morning, Belgacem was stopped by a police officer for speeding and driving with his headlights off. He fired birdshots at the officers, injuring one of them, before driving to a bar he frequents. There he fired four shots from a gun he stole from the previous officer who pulled him over. No one was harmed in this incident.
Belgacem then stole a car and drove to the airport, where he attacked a female soldier and attempted to steal her assault rifle before being shot by two other soldiers nearby. While Belgacem shouted, “I am here to die in the name of Allah…There will be deaths,” it is not yet confirmed that Belgacem was acting as a “radicalized Muslim” terrorist, as some reports have claimed.
The soldiers involved in the incident were part of the “opération Sentinelle,” a French military operation that was started after France’s January 2015 terrorist attack. The operation places troops at points of interest to protect against threats of terrorism.
Belgacem has an extensive criminal history, with multiple prison sentences for armed robbery and drug trafficking. Belgacem’s father, who has remained nameless in news sources, claims that his son was not a terrorist, stating, “He never prayed and he drank.” Instead, his father blames alcohol and drugs for his son’s behavior.
The Paris prosecutors’ office stated that, as part of the autopsy, toxicology found traces of cocaine and cannabis in Belgacem’s blood. Additionally, he had 0.93 grams of alcohol per liter of blood, which is almost twice the legal limit for driving in France.
Francois Molins, a Paris prosecutor, stated Belgacem had been banned from leaving France. In addition to being obligated to report regularly to police due to robbery charges, Belgacem was flagged as having been radicalized during one of his stays in prison in 2011-2012. After the November 2015 suicide bombing and gun attacks in Paris, his house was among the houses searched.
The attack at Orly caused the airport’s two terminals to shut down. Passengers and workers were evacuated, yet hundreds of others had to remain aboard planes that had just landed. Incoming flights from Paris’ second busiest airport had to be redirected to other airports nearby.