Police were hunting a lone gunman on the loose in Paris yesterday after he opened fire with a shotgun at the offices of a left-wing newspaper and a major bank before hijacking a car to take him to the Champs-Elysees avenue.
The assailant burst into the office of the Liberation daily in central Paris, shooting and seriously wounding a photographer’s assistant before fleeing, police and staff at the newspaper said.
About 90 minutes later, he fired at least three shots into the lobby of the suburban headquarters of Société Générale in the La Defense business district 10km west of the centre, the prosecutor said. A window was shattered but none of the dozen or so workers standing nearby was hit.
French president François Hollande, speaking from Jerusalem, said he had asked his interior minister to use all possible means to find the gunman, “who tried to kill and could still do so”.
“Freedom of the press is being targeted,” he told French media from Israel.
A police helicopter hovered over the Champs- Elysees area where the gunman had vanished into the crowd, having hijacked a car and forced the driver to drop him there.
The mid-morning incidents came days after an armed intruder entered the offices of the BFM TV channel, threatening journalists before disappearing.
Police said video surveillance footage showed it was the same man.
A Paris prosecutor released two photographs said to show the suspect from surveillance footage and urged the public to call in any tips to a hotline.
One man wearing different outfits is suspected to have fired shots at the bank and the newspaper, hijacked a car, and threatened people with a gun on Friday at a 24-hour news channel, BFM TV, Paris prosecutor François Molins said.
“Given the similarities between these four cases... we are favouring the hypothesis that there is one author,” Molins said.
“The suspect is of European type, with salt- and-pepper hair and possibly two or three days of stubble.”
The suspect — photographed in a baseball cap with a sling bag, green sneakers with white soles, and either a puffy vest or long green coat — had not claimed the shooting or given any indication of his motive.
The victim at Liberation, wounded close to the heart, was fighting for his life in hospital Molins said.
Police had found two types of 12-gauge shotgun cartridges at the Liberation offices and in BFM TV’s lobby. They were testing the shells for possible DNA evidence, Molins said.
Liberation managing editor Fabrice Rousselot said that witnesses had described the assailant as a short-haired man in his 40s.
“He walked in, fired twice and left,” Rousselot said yesterday.
Liberation’s offices near the Place de la République were cordoned off as forensics experts investigated.
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