Redoine Faid: Paris helicopter prison break for gangster

This is the second prison break pulled off by Redoine Faid (pictured in 2010)
This is the second prison break pulled off by Redoine Faid (pictured in 2010)

A notorious gangster has escaped by helicopter from a prison in the Paris region, the French authorities say.

Redoine Faid was helped by several heavily armed men who created a diversion at the prison entrance while the helicopter landed in the courtyard.

The helicopter flew to the nearby Gonesse area, where it was found by local police.

Faid, 46, has been serving a 25-year sentence for a failed robbery during which a police officer was killed.

This is his second prison break: in 2013, he escaped after seizing four guards as human shields and blowing several doors off with dynamite.

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He staged that escape less than half an hour after arriving at a prison in northern France.

In 2009 Faid wrote a book about his experiences of growing up in Paris's crime-ridden suburbs and graduating into a life of law-breaking.

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He claimed to have turned his back on criminality but a year later was involved in the failed robbery for which he was imprisoned at the prison in Réau in the Seine-et-Marne region.

Faid and his accomplices escaped from the prison courtyard - which was not protected by a net - without injuring anyone, French news website Europe 1 reports.

Gunmen took the prisoner from the visiting room before fleeing by air, according to security sources cited by Reuters.

Reports suggest the helicopter pilot may have been taken hostage.

A police search is now under way across the whole Paris region. "Everything is being done to locate the fugitive," an interior ministry official said.

Born in 1972, Faid grew up in a notoriously rough part of Paris from which he moved into a life of crime.

In the 1990s, he ran a gang involved in armed robbery and extortion in the French capital. He has previously said his lifestyle was inspired by Hollywood crime dramas, including the Al Pacino thriller Scarface.

In 2001, he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for armed robbery.

French police believe Faid was the mastermind behind a 2010 robbery in which a policewoman was killed, but he was only sentenced for the crime in April.

He had been returned to prison in 2011 for breaching parole conditions relating to earlier convictions.

In 2013, he escaped from the northern French prison of Sequedin prison, outside Lille, by taking four guards hostage, but was recaptured six weeks later.

Last year, he was given 10 years in prison for the 2013 prison break.