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French prisoner who escaped in helicopter spotted

France’s most wanted man Redouine Fa-d recognised by police in Piscop but got away

This picture taken on on July 1, 2018 in Gonesse, north of Paris shows a French helicopter Alouette II abandoned by French armed robber Redoine Faid after his escape from prison in Reau.

France: The country’s most wanted man, who has been on the run since his dramatic escape from prison by helicopter three weeks ago, has been spotted near Paris.

Redouine Fa-d was identified as one of two people in a car that was later found abandoned containing explosives.

Officers, who had lost track of the gangster since his spectacular jailbreak, have relaunched a huge manhunt.

Officials said he was recognised by police at a checkpoint near a service station in Piscop, 18km north of Paris, at about 4.30pm local time on Tuesday.

Police raised the alarm after the vehicle sped off before they could stop it.

As gendarmes, joined by national police, gave chase, the car was driven into an underground car park at a shopping centre in nearby Sarcelles, and abandoned.
A police source told French journalists six packets of plastic explosives and false number plates were discovered in the boot.

DNA analysis of fingerprints left inside the vehicle matched those of Fa-d, 46, who was serving a 25-year sentence for crimes including a 2010 attempted robbery in which a police officer died.

A special force of about 100 officers has been searching for Fa-d since July 1, when his accomplices took a helicopter pilot hostage and forced him to land in the courtyard at Reau prison outside Paris.

His heavily armed associates cut through a prison door and grabbed Fa-d, who was in the visitor’s room with his brother, Brahim.

The escape was over in minutes. After abandoning the helicopter and pilot, Fa-d disappeared in a series of vehicles thought to have be heading northwards up a nearby motorway.

It was the second time Fa-d, described by police as a “dangerous individual”, had broken out of prison. In 2013, he escaped from a jail near Lille and was captured six weeks later in a Paris banlieue.

The Paris public prosecutor told Le Monde the manhunt was being overseen by a team specialising in organised crime.

The justice minister, Nicole Belloubet, was due to have presented a report on security failings at Fa-d’s prison to MPs on Tuesday, but was unable to do so as the assemblee nationale is tied up with the investigation into Emmanuel

Macron’s security aide Alexandre Benalla .

After the escape, the French prime minister, Edouard Philippe, told RTL radio: “The police forces are fully mobilised to find this person. We know he is dangerous, we know he is determined.”

On Wednesday, police said the search for Fa-d had been stepped up with “important resources”. 

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