At a Glance - March 20

Aviation: Attacker Killed at Paris Airport After Grabbing a Soldier’s Rifle

On March 18, an attacker was shot and killed at Orly Airport, near Paris, when he stole a soldier’s rifle and took her hostage, after earlier firing at a police officer during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb. Ziyed Ben Belgacem, age 39, a native of France, approached three soldiers patrolling in the terminal and took one of them hostage. (Photo shows soldiers on airport patrol.) He held a gun to her head and, contrary to earlier reports, managed to wrestle her assault rifle away from her. He attempted to use her as a human shield, but the other two soldiers shot him.

The attacker intended to open fire on passengers in the crowded terminal, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins. He said Ben Belgacem told the soldiers that he was there “to die for Allah” and that “in any case, people are going to die.” Molins told reporters that Ben Belgacem, who had a criminal record for drug and robbery offenses, had been flagged for Islamic extremism in the past, after he was examined while serving a prison sentence. An autopsy showed that Ben Belgacem was under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the attack.

The quick response by the patrolling soldiers likely prevented serious casualties in this incident. The soldiers who were attacked were part of Operation Sentinel, under which several thousand French soldiers have been deployed to public areas such as airports, tourist attractions, and train stations since the attack on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January 2015.


Parcel Bombs Sent to Paris and Berlin Illustrate Continuing Threat

Parcel bombs sent to Paris and Berlin last week illustrate a continuing threat from these types of devices. On March 16, a secretary at the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was wounded in her face and arms when a parcel bomb exploded when she opened it. (Photo shows police response at the IMF building.) The previous day, the mailroom at the German Finance Ministry intercepted an explosive parcel sent to the Finance Minister. Both parcels were mailed from Greece. A Greek anarchist group, the Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, claimed responsibility for the parcel mailed to Berlin, and Greek investigators believe the group is responsible for both packages.

Last week’s parcel bombs illustrate the continuing potential for such attacks. In November, a Philadelphia man was seriously wounded by an explosive device in a package that was delivered to his apartment. All organizations are encouraged to review their safety procedures for the receipt and handling of mail. The DHS site “Ensuring Building Security,” available at https://www.dhs.gov/ensuring-building-security#2, includes a section on handling suspicious mail.


Jersey City Man Leaves Suspicious Device Components in a Suitcase at Port Authority Bus Terminal

On March 15, Port Authority Police arrested a Jersey City man after he left a suitcase containing components of a suspicious device at the Midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Surveillance video showed Arsenio Mason, age 39, leaving the suitcase outside a deli at the terminal. Inside the suitcase was “a fuse assembly from a flash grenade screwed to a metal filing attached to a cardboard tube filled with flash powder.” No explosive materials were found. Also in the suitcase were a knife, bolt cutters, and a screwdriver.

Port Authority Police charged Mason with reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a weapon, and possession of burglary tools.


For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at analysis@njohsp.gov or 609-584-4000.