Anti-terrorist police are searching for a masked gunman after female a care worker was murdered at a home and 70 monks were taken hostage at a retirement home in the south of France.
The bloodbath unfolded at the Green Oaks care home in the village of Montferrier-sur-Lez, north of Montpellier, soon after 9.30pm last night.
Shots were heard as the unidentified intruder attacked member of staff and members of an elderly religious community belonging to the Society of African Missions.
Police have put up roadblocks around the area to try and detain the killer on the run.
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Manhunt: A helicopter hovers above Montferrier-sur-Lez as the search for an armed man who murdered a a care worker at a missionary continues
Masked gunman stormed retirement home in Montepellier, France, and is now on the run
Emergency services rushed to the scene after receiving an alert from a worker. Pictures from the scene tweeted by Henry A Pinto
Shots were heard and there were reports of manager of the home being tied up and gagged by the intruder
One warden is said to have ‘discreetly raised the alarm,’ before being bound and gagged by the man, who was armed with a sawn off shotgun and a knife.
Those killed are thought to be female care worker, who was tied up, and then stabbed three times.
Early fears that a man was also killed alongside her have not been confirmed.
And now the husband of the dead woman warned that the care home was completely unguarded.
Police remain at the scene and it has not yet been confirmed if there was a second victim
An elderly woman believed to have been working there was stabbed numerous times with a knife. Picture by Henry A Pinto
The man, only identified as Georges, told RTL radio station that his wife worked night shifts as a care worker, from 8pm to 6.30am.
He explained: ‘The home was unprotected. Anyone at all could go inside. There was no protection, no alarm and no security guard.’
He added that his wife was a woman of ‘extraordinary kindness’ who ‘never had any kind of problem with anyone.’
Nothing has yet indicated if the incident is a terror attack and delegates were paying tribute to the victim
Residents said they heard shots and saw the man entered the building at around 9.45pm
He said: ‘How can you hurt someone like that? She is dead, and me, I’m left destroyed.’
Gendarmes arrived within minutes of the alarm being raised, and they were soon followed by a unit of the GIGN tactical support group.
They soon found the corpse of an elderly woman who had been tied up and then stabbed repeatedly with a knife.
‘A supervisor inside the building raised the alarm very discreetly,’ said a local police source, who confirmed that the siege ended soon after midnight.
The nursing home for monks and priests (pictured) was established since 1994 run by an association Les Chenes Verts
Emergency services remain at the scene whilst police search for the man wearing dark clothing, a hoodie, and a balaclava
Local news sources say the woman was butchered by her killer who stabbed her in the throat and body
Some fifty monks were ‘evacuated’ from the building after gendarmes searched all floors, and then gave the all clear.
The gunman, believed to be wearing a mask and dark clothing including a hoodie, was nowhere to be seen, however, and a manhunt started.
‘An individual, who was masked and armed with a knife and a sawn-off shotgun came into the retirement home where 70 monks live,’ one source said, adding that the man’s motivations were unknown.
The man’s motivations are unknown and it is claimed he was not known to police
Police searched all the rooms and it is believed now all those inside are accounted for
The quiet area is well known for being the home of the religious retirement home who have enjoyed mingling in the community
The nursing home for monks and priests was established since 1994 run by an association Les Chenes Verts.
Speaking at a press conference, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Montpellier (Hérault) Wayne Bodkin said: ‘It’s a shock, it is unclear why such a tragedy, we have no idea of the intrusion pattern in this religious retreat house that welcomes former missionary in Africa. It is in the countryside, very quiet.
‘Most of the residents are over 70 years old.’
Police helped many of the residents who have mobility difficulties and are in their 70s and older
Armed police (pictured) were searching the rooms of the retirement home and it has so far been reported that at least 59 monks have been rescued.
Retirement home called Ephad Des Missions Africaines (pictured) is now believed to be safe
Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret told AFP: ‘For the time being, there is only one victim.
‘For the moment there is no particular evidence about the motive for this crime.’
The man was not known to authorities.
Residents of the home ‘are very elderly with an average age of 75 although some are more than 90,’ said Alain Berthet, a local councillor in Montferrier-sur-Luz.
Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret (pictured) told AFP ‘for the time being, there is only one victim’
The secretary general of the French Bishops’ 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’
Monks, who have served as missionaries in Africa, reside in the home in Montferrier-sur-Lez, north of the city (pictured)
Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret (centre) speaks during a press conference near the retirement home
Many of the residents require assistance to walk, he said.
The secretary general of the French Bishops’ 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.’
People in the surrounding areas have been told to stay inside, lock their doors and turn off their lights.
Montferrier is 20 miles from the town of Lunel, where police suspect a jihadi network may be based.
Police have put out road blocks around the area and are hoping to catch the woman’s killer
A helicopter has been seen flying over a security area near the retirement home for Catholic missionaries
Counter-terror police were at the scene within minutes of a distress call from the building
France is currently under a state of emergency following a series of terrorist attacks by Islamist terrorists .
One of the most recent was in July when an 84-year-old Catholic priest was murdered during morning mass at the parish church in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen.
The two attackers, who said they were from Islamic State, slit Father Jacques Hamel’s throat before themselves being shot dead by police.
Many churches, mosques and synagogues around France are now guarded 24 hours a day by police and army patrols, but the authorities have acknowledged that full security for every building in the country is an impossibility.