FRANCE: A hooded man wearing a knife murdered a woman in a retirement home for the missionaries of southern France on Thursday, triggering a manhunt, the country remaining on the edge after a series of jihadist attacks.
Hooded man, brandishing a shotgun and a knife, tied and killed the woman who worked at home in the village of Montferrier-sur-Lez near the city of Montpellier, a prosecutor said.
More than 70 men and women, most of whom served as missionaries in Africa, live at home.
Armed policemen searched the building but believe the man has fled, sources close to the police operation said, and a large-scale police operation was underway to find the unidentified assailant.
A helicopter was seen flying over the area, sweeping the ground with a giant projector.
Until now, investigators had no evidence of a terrorist attack at a time when France remained in a state of emergency after a number of Islamist atrocities, including the murder of a Old Catholic priest in July.
“For the moment, there is only one victim,” Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret told AFP. “For the moment, there is no particular evidence on the motive of this crime.”
“Nothing points to the motive” of the killer, he added. The man was not known to the authorities.
Residents of the house “are very old with an average age of 75, although some are over 90,” said Alain Berthet, a local councilor in Montferrier-sur-Lez. Many residents need help to walk, he says.
The secretary general of the French Episcopal Conference, Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, said in a Twitter message: “Our prayers tonight go to the woman who lost her life in this attack on a retirement home.
About two hours after the attacker broke into the house, more than a dozen police and emergency vehicles lined the roads near the house while the police set up roadblocks to check the passing vehicles By the zone.
A large security perimeter, spanning several hundred meters, had been set up and officers of the RAID army elite unit were on site.
France is in a state of emergency which gives the security forces increased powers of surveillance and arrest.
Islamist extremists have carried out three large-scale attacks in France since January 2015 when armed men targeted the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket.
Ten months later, the jihadists of the Islamic state massacred 130 people during attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, the national stadium in France and a handful of bars and restaurants in the east of Paris.
And in July, a self-radicalized extremist plowed a truck into the crowd watching the fireworks of the Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice, killing 86 people.
Two days later, two 20-year-old jihadists calling themselves SI disciples split the throat of 84-year-old priest Jacques Hamel in a church near the town of Rouen in the north of the country.