Top French criminal Redoine Faid escapes prison by helicopter

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French prosecutors have opened an investigation into the jailbreak.

"This was a spectacular escape".

Faid, 46, was reportedly assisted by at least three armed accomplices who picked him up by helicopter from the Reau prison courtyard, in the southeatern suburbs of Paris, Le Parisien newspaper reported.

Faid, along with two accomplices, was convicted for the murder of the policewoman.

The commandos also used smoke bombs to shield their movements from surveillance cameras, Belloubet said.

Faid's accomplices hijacked a helicopter from a flight school on Sunday morning and forced the terrified instructor to take them to the prison, where the aircraft hovered above the yard.

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The ministry said Redoine Faid's escape only took "a few minutes" Sunday and no one was injured or taken hostage.

Guards at the prison, who were unarmed, told officials they were overwhelmed by the heavily armed men and could do nothing to stop Faid from bolting, officials said. The 46-year-old is believed to have fled in a vehicle with the armed accomplices.

The crime took place when Faid's brother was visiting him.

The brochure included no mention of a courtyard - large enough for a light utility helicopter such as, say, an Aerospatiale Alouette II - that would, notably, be the only part of the prison not covered by "anti-helicopter netting", according to the Associated Press. Faid was talking with his brother at that time.

His infamy has increased since then following appearances in several television shows and the co-authoring of books recounting his past and rise as a criminal in the tough suburbs of Paris.

The prison break came a little over five years after Faid broke out of the Sequedin prison on April 13, 2013.

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He was nabbed six weeks later in a hotel outside Paris.

He was arrested in 1998 following a global manhunt that tracked him to Switzerland and Israel.

Rédoine Faïd abandoned the helicopter on the outskirts of Paris after using it to escape Réau prison in the south-eastern suburbs.

Faid "led a gang involved in robbing banks and armored vans" in the 90s, the wire service adds, and was freed in 2009 after serving 10 years in prison.

According to news channel BFM-TV, the breakout was orchestrated as Faid was in the prison's visiting room at about 11.30am local time. She is set to appear on a French news program at 7:20 a.m. Monday, local time, to discuss the prison break. The sensational escape left authorities stunned, Sunday.

The helicopter then flew to the nearby Bourget area.

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