AN ISRAELI police officer fatally shot himself yesterday at an airport departure ceremony for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, sparking fear of an assassination attempt and prompting bodyguards to whisk away Sarkozy and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, officials said.
Dark-suited men at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport quickly ushered Sarkozy and his wife up the stairs of their plane.
At the same time, security guards with guns drawn rushed Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres toward their cars. In a panic, Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy rushed up the stairs ahead of her husband.
The shooting occurred while a military band was playing and the leaders apparently did not hear anything. Israel Radio said the officer was stationed 100 metres to 200 metres away from the plane.
Two women soldiers who witnessed the shooting fainted and were treated by medics.
The incident was over within minutes and Olmert boarded the plane to inform Sarkozy what had transpired, witnesses said.
Police spokesman Shlomi Sagi confirmed that a policeman guarding the airport committed suicide just as Sarkozy was about to board his plane.
Officials said he shot himself in the head. Another police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said there had been no assassination attempt on the French leader.
Sarkozy’s three-day trip to Israel was meant to improve relations between the two countries. The area police commander Nissim Mor said police were looking into the incident.
“We are currently investigating the circumstances to see whether it was suicide or if he accidentally discharged his weapon,” he said.
“His mission was to secure an area to prevent people from reaching the ceremony.”
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