Masked men flee after holding up Primark store in Paris
Three masked men with shotguns evaded French special forces after holding up a Primark store yesterday and apparently taking 18 people hostage.
Police were sent in to the Qwartz mall in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, Paris, after reports that robbers were holding several employees hostage in one of the clothing chain's stores. One of the assailants was thought to be a Primark employee.
However, police failed to locate the men, despite searching the 900,000 sq ft shopping centre and the surrounding area. "The three seem to have fled," a source close to the inquiry told BFM TV.
The armed men arrived at the store at 6.30am, as staff were arriving for work. The alarm was raised half an hour later by a member of staff who hid in a toilet and sent her boyfriend a text message saying there were two gunmen at the store. The boyfriend called the police.
A witness told 'Le Parisien' that staff fled in panic: "Everyone was running and screaming 'They are armed, they are armed. We must get out'."
The area around the mall was cordoned off, all traffic was stopped and other shops in the vicinity were closed. The mall was evacuated but according to police, some 18 employees remained inside, holed up in a canteen.
It is not clear whether they were shepherded there by the gunmen or whether they escaped and hid there.
They were evacuated at around 10.30am, with one unwell but no one injured, police said.
Security cameras picked up the men entering the mall but did not catch them leaving.
Paris is still on high alert in the wake of the January attacks by Islamist extremists who killed 17 people in and near the capital, including several who were held hostage in a Jewish supermarket.
A police spokesman said last night: "Nothing leads us to believe this hold up is terror-related." (© Daily Telegraph, London)