French police are currently engaged in a manhunt across central Paris searching for a single gunman suspected of attacking a newspaper office and a bank, leaving a photographer in critical condition. The man, reportedly armed with a pump-action shotgun and hand grenades, fired several shots at the offices of Libération, a daily newspaper, hitting a photographer in the stomach. Shortly afterwards, shots were fired at the offices of Société Générale by a man of a similar description, though no-one was injured.
The gunman is said to be 35-45 years old, 5’6”-5’10” tall, and stubbly with grey hair. He was apparently wearing a khaki coat, a black vest — potentially bulletproof — and a cap, and carrying a black sports bag, which is suspected to hold a shotgun and several hand grenades.
The police focussed their search around the Champs Elysées after a motorist has reported that he was taken hostage by a man claiming to have escaped from prison who demanded to be taken to the popular tourist attraction. However, French prosecutor Francois Molins has since announced in a press conference that they no longer believe the suspect to be in the areas of the Champs Elysées, and the BBC has reported that he may have escaped on the metro. In the mean time, police are defending the offices of major media outlets across Paris in case of future attack. Today’s violence comes mere days after a similar shotgun attack on the headquarters of news channel BFMTV, which left no one harmed, and the police have said that CCTV footage suggests that the same man might be responsible for the BFMTV attack as well.
The U.K.’s Daily Mail has shared CCTV images of the suspect from both today and last week’s attack and reported that the 27-year-old photographer was ‘hovering between life and death’. The English-language French publication The Local has focussed on providing a detailed description of the suspect, with information on how to contact the police. They have also shared a video taken at the BFMTV offices showing the moment the gunman threatened staff on Friday:
The media response across Europe has been remarkably consistent so far, with most publications simply scrambling to keep up with the latest updates from police spokesmen, government figures, and the heads of the companies that have been attacked. With the suspect believed to have caught the metro to evade the police, there seems to be little hope of his capture any time soon, and it seems likely that police will remain on high alert, and will likely be offering protection to Parisian media outlets in the days to come.
So far, no-one has reported to have identified the gunman, and there is no clear account for his motives, or whether his claim to be a prison escapee is accurate. If, as is looking increasingly likely, he is not found today, then Paris is sure to be in a state of high alert for the next few days. With the gunman’s motives unclear, and his attacks not limited to media outlets, tensions are likely to be high across the city. Police have apparently been instructed to use any means necessary by French President Francois Hollande, and you can be sure that they will be under heavy scrutiny until the gunman is captured and brought to justice.
Keep up with all the breaking news out of Paris on France 24 via FilmOn: