Ziyed Ben Belgacem, who was shot and killed by a soldier at Orly airport in Paris on Saturday, was known to French police for a string of criminal convictions, involving violence and theft.

Belgacem, 39, a Paris-born Frenchman, was shot as he attacked a female soldier, trying to steal her assault weapon, ending a spree of violence that lasted several hours.

While grappling with the soldier, he shouted "I am ready to die for God", according to Francois Molins, Paris prosecutor, who described Belgacem as "an extremely violent individual".

His rap sheet paints a picture of a seasoned criminal, accustomed to courts and spells behind bars.

Multiple prison stints

Belgacem had nine entries on his record, from violence to receiving stolen goods. In 2001, he was sentenced to five years in prison for armed robbery.

This was not his last stint in prison. In 2009, Belgacem was handed successive sentences of three and five years for drug trafficking.

While he was in prison, officials noticed "signs of radicalisation", according to Molins, and he was known to police but not considered a serious threat. His house was searched, with no result.

CCTV images showed Belgacem lying the ground at Paris Orly airport after the shooting [Reuters]

Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said three people were in custody after the attack.

"There has been a series of attacks in France over the past two years and the country has been in a state of emergency since 2015," she said.

"With the presidential elections just five weeks away, this incident will throw the spotlight, once again, on security."

Belgacem lived on the sixth floor of a building in the northeastern Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse, in the multi-ethnic Seine-Saint-Denis area.

Neighbours described him to AFP news agency as a withdrawn, serious man who nobody really knew.

Saturday's incident lasted several hours before ending at Orly airport [Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

Officers found several grams of cocaine in his apartment, and he was a regular at an Italian-Cuban bar in the south of Paris, which was known for its rowdy nights, a local resident said.

It was to this venue he headed immediately after drawing a gun and firing at officers earlier on Saturday, slightly injuring one in the head.

He then burst into the bar, threatened customers and fired again without injuring anyone.

Telling his relatives by phone that he had been up to some "mischief", he then drove towards what prosecutors described as the "crescendo" of his destructiveness, stealing a car and heading towards the airport, with a can of petrol and a copy of the Quran in his bag.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies