French police stand in front of the National French Radio building (Maison de la Radio) in Paris, November 18, 2013. Credit: Reuters
Police were hunting a lone gunman on the loose in Paris on Monday after he opened fire with a shotgun at the offices of a left-wing newspaper and a major bank before hijacking a car to take him to the Champs-Elysees avenue.
The assailant burst into the office of the Liberation daily in central Paris, shooting and seriously wounding a photographer's assistant before fleeing, police and staff at the newspaper said.
About 90 minutes later, he fired at least three shots into the lobby of the suburban headquarters of Societe Generale in the La Defense business district 10 km (6 miles) west of the center, the prosecutor said. A window was shattered but none of the dozen or so workers standing nearby was hit.
President Francois Hollande, speaking from Jerusalem, said he had asked his interior minister to use all possible means to find the gunman, "who tried to kill and could still do so."
"Freedom of the press is being targeted," Hollande told French media from Israel.
A police helicopter hovered over the Champs-Elysees area where the gunman had vanished into the crowd, having hijacked a car and forced the driver to drop him there.
A Paris prosecutor released two photographs said to show the suspect from surveillance footage and urged the public to call in any tips to a hotline.
One man wearing different outfits is suspected to have fired shots at the bank and the newspaper, hijacked a car and threatened people with a gun on Friday at a 24-hour news channel, BFMTV, said Paris prosecutor Francois Molins.
"Given the similarities between these four cases... we are favoring the hypothesis that there is one author," Molins told journalists. "The suspect is of European type, with salt-and-pepper hair and possibly 2 or 3 days of stubble."
The suspect - who was photographed in a baseball cap with a sling bag, green sneakers with white soles, and either a puffy vest or long green coat - had not claimed the shooting or given any indication of his motive.
The victim of the shooting at Liberation, wounded close to the heart, was fighting for his life, Molins said.
Investigators had found two types of 12-gauge shotgun cartridges at the Liberation offices and in BFMTV's lobby where the gunman had fired shots. They were testing the shells for possible DNA evidence, Molins said.
Liberation managing editor Fabrice Rousselot said witnesses had described the assailant as a short-haired man in his 40s. Police said he was "of European type."
"He walked in, fired twice and left," Rousselot told reporters.
Deputy editor-in-chief Fabrice Tassel said in a tweet that the young male victim was fighting for his life in hospital.
Police deployed outside the offices of other media outlets in the French capital.
The mid-morning incidents came days after an armed intruder entered the offices of the BFM TV channel, threatening journalists before disappearing. Police said video surveillance footage showed it was the same man.
Liberation's offices near the Place de la Republique in east-central Paris were cordoned off as forensics experts investigated.