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It says "an armed commando landed in a helicopter in the courtyard as the prisoner was in the visiting room" of Reau Prison, south of Paris.

Faid and his accomplices escaped from the prison courtyard - which was not protected by a net - without injuring anyone Gunmen took the prisoner from the visitors' room before fleeing by air, according to security sources cited by Reuters.

The helicopter - hijacked from a terrified flight instructor - landed at around 11:15 a.m.in the prison yard.

It was the second daring escape by Redoine Faid, who once blasted his way out of a different prison with explosives hidden in tissue packs.

The two black-clad men armed with assault rifles set off smoke bombs before breaking their way into the prison's visitation room using the power tools. He was forced to fly before being later freed in a state of shock.

Faid was once France's most-wanted man and previously said his life of crime was inspired by films such as "Scarface", according to AFP.

He had been released on parole in 2009, after spending 10 years behind bars for a series of robberies. Redoine Faid, an inmate, used explosives and took hostages to escape out of jail.

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"Everything is being done to locate the fugitive", an official at the interior ministry said.

Faid was sentenced to 25 years in the 2010 death of a young policewoman killed during a botched robbery.

Not long after the prison break, the helicopter was found abandoned in a field in Gonesse, a Paris suburb just northeast of the capital, photos of the scene showed.

Notorious French criminal Redoine Faid poses prior to an interview with French all-news TV channel, LCI, as he was promoting his book, in Boulogne-Billancourt, outside Paris, France, Nov. 22, 2010.

He was on the run for six weeks and had changed his appearance before police captured him in a hotel with an accomplice. "Take away the [lessons taught by] cinema and you would have 50 percent less crime", he once told Michael Mann, the director of Heat (1995), his favourite film. One of his prison supervisors said that Faid had never had any conflict with staff, "but we must always be wary".

In the 1990s, Faid led a criminal gang involved in armed robbery of banks and armoured vans transporting money.


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