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France manhunt for armed ex-soldier who fired on police

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image captionDordogne department prefect Frédéric Périssat said the shooter is in a wooded area cordoned off by police

A manhunt is under way in south-west France for a heavily armed former soldier who opened fire on police.

Helicopters, dog teams and more than 300 officers are searching for the man around the town of Le Lardin-Saint-Lazare in the Dordogne region.

Reports say the unnamed man is around 30 years old, has a history of domestic violence, and is armed with a high-calibre weapon.

The local government has urged residents to stay indoors.

“The man went overnight to his ex-partner’s home. A dispute took place there, which led to the intervention of gendarmes and that is when the suspect shot at them. He then fled to woods nearby,” prefect of Dordogne Frédéric Périssat told BFM television.

Mr Périssat added that the man is within a four sq km (1.5 sq mile) “hilly, wooded area” cordoned off by police.

France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that the police and local authorities were using “all means” to protect the local population, adding that more than 300 officers are now actively involved in the search.

Franceinfo reports the incident started on Saturday night, when the man attacked his ex’s new partner. He reportedly shot the new partner, who fled the scene. His ex and her children were not injured and are now under police protection, authorities said.

When police arrived, he fired at officers and their vehicles before fleeing into the woods. So far there have been no police casualties, although several vehicles have been damaged.

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image captionOfficers have set up a perimeter around the town of Le Lardin-Saint-Lazare in the Dordogne region

Le Lardin-Saint-Lazare Mayor Francine Bourra told BFM that the suspect had been released from prison and was wearing an electronic bracelet. He was prohibited from visiting his former partner’s home, she said.

“I believe that unfortunately [the situation] can last a long time,” Ms Bourra told the channel, adding that the suspect was “not at all inclined to dialogue and not ready to surrender”.

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image captionHelicopters and armoured vehicles are taking part in the search

Officers have closed off roads around the town and set up a security perimeter. The gunman has reportedly fired on the helicopter that is flying over the wooded area, and officer André Pétillot told BFM that he was armed with a high-calibre weapon “which can kill at long distances”.

Mr Pétillot also told the channel that the suspect “is looking to be killed by the police”, and urged him to surrender.

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