A notorious French criminal serving 25 years for murder has staged a daring escape from a prison south of Paris using a helicopter.
A huge manhunt has begun for Redoine Faid in the French capital after he broke out of Reau Prison.
This is the second time he has escaped from a French jail. In 2013, he blasted his way out of prison with explosives hidden in tissue packs. He was recaptured six weeks later.
France’s justice ministry said 46-year-old Faid’s escape took only “a few minutes” and no one was injured or taken hostage.
It said “an armed commando landed in a helicopter in the courtyard as the prisoner was in the visiting room” of the facility.
Martial Delabroye, a union representative at Reau Prison, told BFM television that “two men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and police armbands” entered the jail to look for Faid.
They used a grinding machine to open the door that leads to the visiting room, he said.
The helicopter was later found burned out in Garges-les-Gonesse, in the northern suburbs of Paris. Faid is believed to have left there by car, with his accomplices.
French prosecutors have opened an investigation.
Faid was serving a 25-year sentence for the 2010 death of a young policewoman during a botched robbery.
In the 1990s, he led a criminal gang involved in armed robberies of banks and armoured vans transporting money. He was arrested in 1998 after three years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, according to French media.
Faid was freed in 2009 after serving 10 years in prison. At the time he swore that he had turned his life around, writing a confessional book about his life of crime and going on an extensive media tour in 2010.
Still, he was the suspected mastermind of an attempted armed robbery in 2010 that led to a high-speed chase and a shootout with police in which 26-year-old policewoman Aurelie Fouquet was killed. He was arrested in 2011.
Faid and two accomplices were later convicted of Ms Fouquet’s murder.