France hunts gangster who escapes prison by helicopter

French premier: 2,900 officers are searching for Redoine Faid, who at one time was known as France’s public enemy number 1
PARIS: A major manhunt remains underway in France for a notorious inmate who fled prison on Sunday aboard a hijacked helicopter in a commando-style operation.
Redoine Faid, once dubbed as France’s “public enemy number one”, was helped by three heavily-armed men with assault rifles to escape by helicopter from Reau prison in the Paris region in less than 10 minutes.
Faid, 46, had been serving a 25-year sentence for a failed robbery in 2010.
Premier Edward Philippe said 2,900 officers are searching for Faid.
“At this time, the police are fully mobilized to arrest this individual,” Philippe told French radio RTL on Monday. “We know it is dangerous.The urgency is the mobilization to find this prisoner,” Philippe said.
He acknowledged that such an escape highlights questions about the security of prisons, saying it “is not acceptable” and “the second urgency is to understand how it was possible”.
Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who arrived at the prison in Reau on Sunday evening, said commandos most likely “used drones to survey the location… the inquiry that’s under way will tell us”.
Belloubet also said authorities are urgently looking for gaps in the security system that would have allowed heavily-armed men to land a helicopter in the prison yard and fly away with Redoine Faid, whose brother was visiting him.
The helicopter was found torched in a field.
French media reported that the three men took the pilot hostage and later freed him. Faid’s brother has been detained.
A wanted notice said Faid is believed to have made his escape in a utility company truck.
This is Faid’ second prison break. In 2013, he escaped a prison in northern France after using four guards as human shields and blowing up several doors.
He staged that escape less than half an hour after arriving and spent six weeks on the run.
Faid was freed in 2009 after serving 10 years in prison. At the time he swore that he had turned his life around.

In his confessional book about his life of crime released in 2010, Faid said his life was inspired by films like “Scarface”.–AA

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