Manhunt underway near the Champs Elyées after shooting at Paris newspaper
A manhunt was underway near the Champs-Elysées in central Paris on Monday afternoon after two shootings – one at the offices of Libération newspaper in which a young photographer was critically injured.
A helicopter was flying above “the world’s most beautiful avenue” following reports that a man had taken a motorist hostage in Puteaux, west of Paris, and forced him to drive him to the famed avenue that leads to the Arc de Triomphe.
According to BFMTV, the motorist dropped the "heavily armed" gunman off outside the Georges V, a top hotel just off the Champs-Elysées.
All major news outlets in Paris were under police protection after a gunman burst into the headquarters of Libération newspaper and opened fire.
Gunfire has also been reported outside the towers of Societe Generale bank at Paris' business district of La Défense. There were no injuries reported.
Police said it was too early to link the two incidents.
A 27-year-old man was fighting for his life after the lone intruder shot him in the chest and stomach with a pump-action shotgun at 10.15am local time on Monday morning in the lobby of Libération's offices in the 3rd arrondissement.
The newspaper said the injured man worked as an assistant to one of the photographers for Next, a supplement of the newspaper.
Manuel Valls, the interior minister, condemned a "scene of war that has nothing to do with democracy or the press".
The gunman fled the scene and is still at large several hours after the attack.
According to France Info radio, the attacker has been described as appearing to be aged in his 40s, with a shaved head, wearing a long green coat and bullet-proof vest.
A journalist at Libération tweeted that the attacker had fired two to three shots on the ground floor of the premises before fleeing on foot.
"I was just arriving for work and I saw a man lying on the ground, holding his stomach and with blood everywhere," Liberation journalist Anastasia Vecrin told AFP.
François Hollande, the French president who is currently on a tour of the Middle East, said he had ordered "all possible means" to be used to find the assailant.
The Liberation shooting came three days after a man stormed into the Paris headquarters of news channel BFMTV and emptied several cartridges from a similar shotgun before warning a senior editor: "Next time, I will not miss you."
Police are investigating a possible link between the two incidents.
Libération executive Nicolas Demorand said staff at the left-leaning newspaper founded by Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher, were in shock.
"When you have someone with a shotgun coming into a newspaper's offices in a democracy, it is very, very serious, whatever the mental state of the person," said Mr Demorand.
"If papers and other media have to become bunkers, something has gone wrong in our society."
He condemned a climate of rising violence in France, in particular towards journalists.
A police security cordon was erected around Libération's editorial offices in central Paris.
Police were protecting the Paris offices of several national media outlets, including the newspapers Le Parisien, Le Monde, les Echos and le Figaro and Europe 1 radio.
Mr Valls quickly arrived at the scene with Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris and Aurélie Filipetti, the culture minister.
"While we still haven't got our hands on this individual it's cause for concern," said Mr Valls.
"All means have been put at the police's disposal" to catch the assailant, said Mr Valls.
He said that he remained "prudent" about any potential link with the BFMTV shooting of last Friday, even if there were "points in common".
Mr Delanoë said : "Violence against journalists is worrying for out society. We are determined not to let this pass."