FRENCH police are hunting a gunman suspected of a shooting at a Paris newspaper office – that seriously wounded a member of staff – as well as three other attacks around the nation’s capital.
The motive for the attacks, which prompted heightened security at media offices and the busy Champs-Élysées shopping avenue, is unclear.
Paris prosecutor François Molins said authorities believe a lone gunman was involved in the shooting on Monday at the prominent daily newspaper Liberation, a similar incident at news network BFM-TV, a shooting at French bank Societe Generale and a brief hostage-taking.
Police released video footage of the suspect. Mr Molins said he was wielding a pump-action weapon and wearing a black vest, green shoes with white soles, and a cap. Mr Molins said the suspect’s image will be distributed to help with the manhunt.
Yesterday’s attack began with a gunman entering the main lobby of Liberation at about 10am and opening fire. A 27-year-old photographer’s assistant was in intensive care after being shot near the heart and in the arm, Mr Molins said.
The shooting prompted cries of concern about attacks on the media. The culture minister called Liberation – an outspoken left-leaning paper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre that has seen financial difficulties and redundancies in recent years – a “pillar of our democracy.”
Less than two hours after the shooting at Liberation, three shots were fired in front of the headquarters of the bank Societe Generale in the Paris suburb of La Defense, according to Paris police. Societe Generale, located about six miles north-west of the Liberation offices, said in a statement that a lone gunman opened fire in front of the building, and no-one was hurt.
Less than an hour later, a man called police to say he had been taken hostage by a gunman in Puteaux, the area next to La Defense. Police said the gunman forced his hostage to drive three miles back toward central Paris, then let him go on the Champs-Élysées.
Police were searching the district and other sites around the French capital.
All this came three days after another incident at BFM-TV, in which an armed man threatened journalists with a rifle in the news network’s lobby before fleeing. He left behind unused cartridges, and told witnesses, “Next time, I won’t miss,” Mr Molins said. It was unclear whether the gunman’s rifle malfunctioned or whether he chose not to shoot.
The Paris prosecutor added: “Taking into account the similarities of these four affairs, in the modus operandi, the clothing of the perpetrator and in the munitions that were recovered, we believe a single gunman is the most likely possibility.”
The government positioned police at all major media organisations in Paris, according to interior minister Manuel Valls. A helicopter flew over the area that includes the French president’s office and the nearby Champs-Élysées. French president François Hollande said he ordered authorities to “mobilise all means to clarify the circumstances of these acts and arrest the perpetrator or perpetrators”.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders denounced the attacks.