Hunt on for Paris shooter, victim critical but 'better'

Hunt on for Paris shooter, victim critical but 'better'

PARIS - A massive manhunt was under way Tuesday in Paris, a day after a gunman shot and critically wounded a photographer at the offices of a major newspaper before opening fire outside a bank headquarters and hijacking a car.

Investigators have so far been unable to identify the gunman - described as white and aged between 35 and 45 - and branded a "real danger" by Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

A police source said Tuesday that about 400 calls had come in following an appeal for information from the public.

"Of these 120 have been taken seriously and are being followed up," the source said.

Investigators issued a new photograph of the suspect taken by a close-circuit camera on Monday in Paris's central Concorde metro station, near the Avenue des Champs Elysees.

It shows a man with a round face, wearing a red jacket and a beige cap, and carrying a black shoulder bag.

His motive remains unclear, but police believe the man was also behind an incident on Friday in which staff at a Paris news television station were threatened by a gun-wielding intruder.

The attacker, wearing a cap and wielding a 12-gauge shotgun, opened fire at the offices of left-wing newspaper Liberation at about 10:15 am (0915 GMT) Monday.

A photographer arriving for his first day of freelance work at the paper suffered buckshot wounds to the chest and stomach.

Liberation said he was 23, originally from the southern city of Toulon and had been about to work on a photo shoot on Christmas presents.

He was taken to hospital in critical condition. The newspaper later said he underwent surgery and was being kept in intensive care.

Liberation's publisher Nicolas Demorand said on Tuesday the man was "still critical," although he was "in a slightly better state."

"He was in a hopeless state yesterday when he was hospitalised," Demorand told France Inter. "He is however in a critical state and we remain hopeful."

Demorand said the shooting in the Liberation's entrance hall left staff traumatised but the paper vowed to carry on its work.

'An attack on France'

A commentary in Tuesday's edition of the paper signed by Demorand said simply: "We will continue".

"Opening fire in a newspaper is an attack on the lives of men and women who are only doing their jobs. And on an idea, a set of values, which we call 'The Republic,'" it said.

The daily devoted four pages to the unprecedented attack and an employee described the moment the gunman walked in.

"The guy pulled out a gun from his bag and fired twice at the first person he saw. It lasted no more than 10 seconds, and anyone of us could have been hit. The shooter said nothing and left immediately," the staff member was quoted as saying.

After fleeing the daily's offices in the east of Paris, the same man is believed to have crossed the city to the La Defense business district on its western edge, where he fired several shots outside the main office of the Societe Generale bank, hitting no one.

He then reportedly hijacked a car driven by a priest and forced him to drop him off close to the Champs-Elysees in the centre of the French capital, where gun crime is rare.

A judicial source quoted the driver as saying that the gunman told him that he had "been released from prison, was ready to do anything and had a grenade."

Police said security camera images of the shooter suggested he was the same man who last Friday stormed into the Paris headquarters of TV news channel BFMTV to threaten staff.

In that incident, the gunman pumped his shotgun to empty several cartridges on the floor, while warning a senior editor: "Next time, I will not miss you."

Philippe Antoine, the editor-in-chief of BFMTV, came face-to-face with the attacker during Friday's incident and said he had appeared calm and determined.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Tuesday that police were working relentlessly, adding: "We will find the perpetrator so that he is tried and sentenced."

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