Later, the helicopter was found dumped in a suburb after the criminals burned it just northeast of Paris.

The most famous helicopter escape in France occurred in 1986 when bank robber Michel Vaujour's wife, Nadine Bourgain, landed a chopper at the La Sante Prison on the Left Bank of Paris, plucked up her husband and flew away.

A union representative for the prison told French news channel BFM that "two men dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and police armbands" broke into the visiting room with a grinder.

The 46-year-old Faid was serving time for the 2010 death of a young police officer killed during a botched robbery.

Faid grew up in the French capital's tough immigrant suburbs.

Earlier Sunday, Faid's associates had taken a helicopter pilot hostage at a nearby flight school, forcing him to fly to the prison, the BBC reported.

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A notorious gangster has escaped by helicopter from a prison in the Paris region, French authorities say. In 2013, he took four prison guards hostage, then used dynamite to blasted his way out, fleeing in a waiting getaway auto, only to be recaptured six weeks later.

The manhunt is ongoing and an interior ministry official told AFP that almost 3,000 French police were recruited for the search.

He spent years as an global fugitive before his capture, and then a decade in prison, and then wrote an autobiography after his release on parole in 2009. Faid is believed to have left by vehicle along with his accomplices. He briefly took four wardens hostage before being recaptured six weeks later in a cheap hotel room. He was arrested in 1998 after three years on the run in Switzerland and Israel, according to French media reports. In it, he claimed to have been inspired by the USA gangster film "Scarface", the Telegraph wrote, but said his life of crime was behind him.

The 2010 robbery that he was imprisoned for involved the shooting of a female police officer.

Prior to the 2013 escape, Faid 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.

That same year, he wrote a book describing growing up in Paris's notoriously crime-ridden suburbs and starting his life of delinquency.


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