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Convict who escaped jail by helicopter flees police in car chase

media Police search the hijacked helicopter abandoned by Redoine Faïd and his accomplices north of Paris after his jailbreak on 1 July 2018. GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP

Escaped prisoner Redoine Faïd and an alleged accomplice narrowly escaped police on Tuesday in a vehicle containing explosives, authorities say. It’s the first police sighting of Faïd since his spectacular helicopter jailbreak three weeks ago.

Police sources said the notorious career criminal had been “identified” on Tuesday as one of the two occupants of a vehicle near a gas station in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles.

When officers tried to carry out a security check on the vehicle, the driver and passenger sped off and fled the scene. A brief car chase ensued and ultimately ended in the underground parking lot of a shopping mall in Sarcelles, where Faïd and his alleged accomplice abandoned the vehicle and escaped on foot.

Explosives were found in the abandoned vehicle, according to police, along with multiple number plates.

"We do not yet know where the explosives were being taken," a senior prosecutor for the Pontoise region told AFP.

Authorities set up a security perimeter and sealed off the shopping centre while bomb disposal experts dealt with the explosives.

It was the first sighting of Faïd, nicknamed the "Jailbird King" by French media, since he broke out of prison outside Paris on 1 July, whisked away by accomplices in a hijacked helicopter.

Thousands of police have been mobilised to track him down since his escape earlier this month.

In April, he was sentenced to 25 years for masterminding a botched armed robbery that ended in the death of a police officer in 2010.

He had already escaped from jail in 2013, blasting his way out of a prison northern France using dynamite, briefly taking four guards hostage and holing up in a hotel on an industrial estate, where he was captured six weeks later.

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