A notorious career thief who was once France's most-wanted man pulled off a daring jailbreak on Sunday, fleeing a prison in the Paris area by helicopter, officials said.
Redoine Faid, 46, broke out of the prison in Reau in the city's southeastern suburbs within minutes, helped by a number of heavily-armed men, sources close to the case said.
He fled with three accomplices, according to the sources. The helicopter was later found in a northeastern suburb of the French capital, they said, adding that a police search has been launched across the entire Paris region.
It was the second time Faid has pulled off a spectacular jailbreak -- in 2013, he blasted his way out of a prison in northern France using dynamite before being recaptured six weeks later.
Prior to this, he had been released from a previous stint of a decade behind bars after convincing parole officials that he regretted his criminal past and was determined to start afresh.
An appeals court sentenced Faid to 25 years in April for masterminding a May 2010 armed robbery that turned into a gunfight, in which a policewoman was killed.
Faid, who grew up in tough immigrant suburbs outside Paris, has made several television appearances and co-authored two books about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in the Paris suburbs.
He said his life of crime was inspired by American films such as "Scarface" and "Heat".