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Notorious French Gangster Escapes Prison In Hijacked Helicopter

GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP/Getty Images

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter

A notorious French thief successfully escaped from prison on Sunday after several heavily armed men landed a stolen helicopter in the courtyard, busted into a visiting room, and flew him across Paris, according to French authorities.

Redoine Faid, who was serving a 25-year prison term for a botched armed robbery that left a policewoman dead, broke out of Reau Prison in Paris’ southwest suburbs in “only a few minutes,” the French Ministry of Justice said, according to The Associated Press.

French media reported that two men wearing balaclavas and police armbands used a special tool to break into the prison’s visiting area, where Faid was meeting with his brother. A third assailant stayed behind and held the helicopter pilot at gunpoint.

The prison guards were unarmed and powerless to thwart the escape, a spokesman for the guards’ union told French outlet BFM television, according to The AP.

French authorities discovered the helicopter in a northeastern suburb of Paris shortly after the escape, reports France24. They had released the pilot unharmed. (RELATED: French Police Say They Stopped Two ‘Very Determined’ Terrorists)

A career criminal known for robbing banks and armored vans throughout France, the 46-year-old Faid was first arrested in 1998 after spending three years on the lam in Switzerland and Israel. He was released in 2009 after serving a 10-year sentence.

Claiming to have forsaken a life of crime, Faid published a confessional book about his exploits and followed it up with an extensive media tour in 2010. But that same year, he was suspected of orchestrating an armed robbery that led to a high-speed chase with police in which 26-year-old officer Aurelie Fouquet was killed.

Faid was sent to prison in 2011 again for breaking the terms of his parole. His prison stay proved to be short-lived when in 2013, he blasted his way out of jail using smuggled explosives and escaped in a waiting getaway car.

He was discovered six weeks later hiding out in a hotel on the outskirts of Paris and sent to Reau Prison, where he was incarcerated until Sunday’s audacious escape.

French police have launched a manhunt for Faid across the entire Paris metro area.

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