By Alexander Tanas
CHISINAU, (Reuters) – A 43-year-old Tajik man grabbed a gun, shot dead two security officers and wounded a civilian at Moldova’s main international airport on Friday after being denied entry to the country, authorities said.
The suspected assailant was himself wounded and apprehended, police said, in an incident that briefly grounded flights at Chisinau International Airport.
Moldova’s acting chief prosecutor, Ion Munteanu, said the shooting was being examined as a terrorist act. Investigators were not ruling out that other people were involved, but there was no evidence he was linked to any armed group.
One witness, Olena Shevelyova, said she had been told to evacuate the airport with other passengers and heard four or five gunshots about 30 minutes later.
“We heard some guns shooting while we were already evacuated from the airport in the middle of runaway, we were asked to hide behind the technical buildings there,” she told Reuters by phone.
Prime Minister Dorin Recean said the shooter seized a weapon from a border police official as he was being escorted away.
The two killed were a border guard and an airport security officer, President Maia Sandu said, offering condolences.
Prosecutor Munteanu said the gunman held a passport from Tajikistan, an ex-Soviet state in central Asia, and had arrived in Chisinau from Istanbul.
He had become agitated when asked to outline his reasons for coming to Moldova. The shooting broke out as he was being taken to an airport area for a return flight to Istanbul.
Moldovan politician Dragos Galbur, quoting his own sources, said the suspect had received some 10 gunshot wounds, had undergone surgery and remained in the custody of special forces.
Moldova, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, has a population of 2.6 million and is pushing to join the European Union.
Shevelyova, 48, a Ukrainian executive who had been waiting to board a flight to Milan, said that passengers were not initially told why they had to evacuate.
“It was unclear if there was a bomb or something had happened. It was only after we went far away from the airport that we were told there is someone who is shooting.”
Moldova is often used for flights by neighbouring Ukrainians since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of their country.