Suicide shock at Sarkozy's farewell

Officer in security detail shoots himself at airport; Olmert, Peres, Sarkozy, Bruni rushed from scene.

soldier suicide sarkozy  (photo credit: Channel 10)
soldier suicide sarkozy
(photo credit: Channel 10)
No one on the tarmac heard the shot that ended a border policeman's life a few hundred meters away from the leaders of Israel and France at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday, but security agents, fearing an assassination attempt, scrambled into action after news of the unexpected development reached them via their radio earpieces. The incident took place as French President Nicolas Sarkozy boarded a flight back to Paris, concluding a three-day visit to the region. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres had accompanied Sarkozy to the airport. A military band greeted the leaders, and a picture-perfect ceremony commenced, marking the end of an important state visit seen by many as symbolizing the increasingly warm relations between Jerusalem and Paris. Within seconds of his bodyguards learning that a shot had been fired nearby, Olmert found himself surrounded by dark-suited Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) agents, who whisked him into a bulletproof vehicle. Peres was rushed into a second secure vehicle. The bodyguards were following "emergency procedure," a spokesman for Peres's security entourage later explained. On the stairs leading up to Sarkozy's plane, alarmed French security guards escorted Sarkozy aboard the aircraft. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French premier's wife, ran up the stairs ahead of him. The French president waited for more news on the plane. Minutes passed before word reached Olmert that the shooting had occurred on the outer security perimeter around the farewell ceremony. There was no assassination attempt, the Shin Bet told the prime minister. After receiving the all-clear, Olmert and Peres boarded the plane to inform Sarkozy of what had transpired. Suicide was the likely cause of death for the border policeman - struck by his own bullet while guarding the departure ceremony, a border police spokesman said. "According to the preliminary results of a forensic mobile lab on the scene, the signs point to suicide," the spokesman added. He stressed that "the investigation has not yet ended," adding, "These are the first results we've gotten back from the scene." Police did not release further details on the officer's identity in the hours following the shooting. Establishing contact with the deceased's family was a top priority, said police officials. During Sarkozy's visit, the French president addressed the Knesset and offered France's support in confronting the threat posed by Iran. He also criticized the government over its settlement policy and called for the founding of a Palestinian state on the West Bank with east Jerusalem as its capital.