Lone gunman still at large despite Paris manhunt

19th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

A gunman who critically wounded a photographer at the offices of a major Paris newspaper remained at large Tuesday despite an intense police manhunt, a public appeal to identify him and forensic sleuthing.

The newspaper involved, the leftwing daily Liberation, said the 23-year-old photography assistant shot during the gunman's attack in its reception area on Monday remained in intensive care.

He was in a slightly improved condition and had been taken out of an induced coma, but remained "intensely monitored" by doctors, it said.

The victim was shot in the back by the shotgun-wielding perpetrator, with an exit wound on the left-hand side of his chest, according to a Liberation account of an employee who administered first aid to him.

More than 24 hours after the assault, police were busy scanning CCTV surveillance videos for images of the shooter, who was thought to be acting alone and described by officials as "a real danger".

DNA examinations have been carried out on the shotgun cartridges the gunman used and a car he commandeered during Monday's drama, and witness statements have been pored over -- all to no avail so far.

A new photo of the suspect taken by a close-circuit camera and released by authorities showed a white man aged 35 to 45 with a round face, wearing a red jacket and beige cap and carrying a black shoulder bag.

But investigators were still unable to identify the gunman and continued to ask for information from the public. The appeal has so far generated around 400 calls.

"Of these, 120 have been taken seriously and are being followed up," a police source said.

Several people had been detained or stopped in the street, but all turned out to be false alarms.

Wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, the attacker opened fire at the offices of left-wing newspaper Liberation in the east of Paris at about 10:15 am (0915 GMT) on Monday.

He shot the photographer's assistant, who was hauling gear in the lobby on his second day of freelance work at the paper, and fired another blast that hit the roof before leaving within seconds. Witnesses described him as calm and determined.

After fleeing the daily's offices, the gunman is believed to have crossed the city to the La Defense business district on its western edge, where he fired several shots outside the main office of the Societe Generale bank, hitting no one.

He then reportedly hijacked a car, telling the driver he was just out of prison, had a grenade and was "ready for anything", and forced him to drop him off close to the Champs Elysees avenue in the centre of the French capital.

The gunman's motive was not known.

Police believe he was the same man who last Friday stormed into the Paris headquarters of a 24-hour TV news channel, BFMTV, briefly threatening staff with a gun before hurrying out.

In that incident, the gunman pumped his shotgun to empty several cartridges on the floor, while warning a senior editor: "Next time, I will not miss you."

'All-out, intense resentment'

Forensic psychologist Daniel Zagury said the man did not seem to be suffering from extreme mental disorders such as delirium at the time of his actions.

"He attacks symbols but you get the feeling that he is not looking for anything spectacular," he said, adding that his actions seemed motivated less by a specific cause than by "all-out, intense resentment".

A commentary in Tuesday's edition of Liberation signed by the paper's publisher, Nicolas Demorand, was titled: "We will continue".

"Opening fire in a newspaper is an attack on the lives of men and women who are only doing their jobs. And on an idea, a set of values, which we call 'The Republic,'" it said.

The daily devoted four pages to the unprecedented attack and an employee described the moment the gunman walked in.

"The guy pulled out a gun from his bag and fired twice at the first person he saw. It lasted no more than 10 seconds, and anyone of us could have been hit. The shooter said nothing and left immediately," the staff member was quoted as saying.

© 2013 AFP

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