One of France's most notorious criminals was arrested on Sunday in an elaborate escape in which heavily armed commandos landed a helicopter hijacked on the prison grounds near Paris, overwhelmed the guards and took him to freedom in just a "few minutes," the officials said.
A mbad persecution was under way for Redoine Faid, who broke the Reau prison south of Paris. It marked the second time in less than five years that Faid escaped from a maximum security penitentiary.
"It was a spectacular escape, no doubt it was a very well prepared one [prison break]," French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said during a press conference on Sunday outside the prison.
Belloubet said that three accomplices armed with masks and dressed in black hijacked the helicopter with their flight instructor and forced him at gunpoint to land in the prison yard around 11:30 a.m. local time.
"Two commandos entered the prison to look for Redoine Faid while the third man was staying with the helicopter instructor," Belloubet said. "The two men used a grinding machine to open the door to the visiting room where Faid was, they picked him up and left."
Commands also used smoke bombs to protect their movements from surveillance cameras, Belloubet said.
Faid, 46, was serving a 25-year sentence for a failed armed robbery in 2010 in which 26-year-old French police officer Aurélie Fouquet was killed during a shootout.
Belloubet said that Faid was in a room visiting his brother, Brahim, when the commandos burst in, grabbed Faid and hurried him towards the waiting whirlybird.
The Minister of Justice said that the escape took only "a few minutes" and that no one was injured.
Prison guards, who were unarmed, told officers they were overwhelmed by heavily armed men and that they could not do anything to prevent Faid from escaping, authorities said.
The helicopter was found abandoned and burned down in Garges-les-Gonesse, a city in the suburbs north of Paris. Police believe that Faid was transferred to a waiting waiting car, which was also found abandoned.
The kidnapped pilot, a member of a flight club near Paris, was released unharmed, Belloubet said.
Belloubet said that the breaking of the prison probably took months to plan and that authorities suspect that Faid's accomplices had stationed the prison thoroughly and possibly used drones to determine the best place to land the helicopter.
Belloubet said the commandos put the helicopter in the only place in the prison that was not covered by an anti-helicopter network.
"A few months ago, the prison staff said they saw drones flying over the prison," Belloubet said.
Faid's brother, Brahim, was arrested by the authorities for questioning.
The prison escape came a little over five years after Faid escaped from Sequedin prison on April 13, 2013. In that escape, Faid used smuggled explosives to pbad through five prison doors, taken as hostages to four guards and used them as human shields as they went to a fleeing car and fled.
He was captured on May 29, 2013 when authorities found him hiding in a hotel in Pontault-Combault, east of Paris.
Faid is a kind of criminal famous in France, who embarked on a criminal life in the 1990s, when he and his gang conducted a series of robberies of banks and armored vehicles.
He was arrested in 1998 after a worldwide search that tracked him to Switzerland and Israel.
After completing a 10-year prison sentence, Faid wrote a book in 2009 about his life in crime.
Faid is not the first prisoner to escape in a helicopter. His imprisonment in prison marked the twelfth time since 1986 that an inmate in France has used a helicopter to flee the walls of the prison.
The most famous helicopter escape in France occurred in 1986 when the wife of bank robber Michel Vaujour, Nadine Bourgain, landed a helicopter at La Sante Prison on the left bank of Paris, plucking her husband and flew away . Authorities later learned that Bourgain spent months before escaping by teaching herself how to fly a helicopter.