DEVELOPING – French police said eighteen people were removed unharmed from a discount clothing store in a suburb of Paris after three armed robbers burst in early Monday.
A Paris regional police official told the Associated Press that special police units had surrounded the Primark store and cordoned off a neighborhood in the town of Villeneuve-la-Garenne, approximately six miles north of the French capital. Television images showed several helmeted elite police officers entering a side door of the shopping center at mid-morning.
The official said the assailants were trying to rob the store and entered around 6:30 a.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET) Monday. The official said it is unclear whether the gunmen took any of those inside as hostages or whether they were simply hiding from the assailants.
Authorities said police were still hunting the attackers in the area as of noon Monday.
There was no immediate sign of a political or other motive for the robbery. The Paris region remains on high alert for terrorist activity after Islamic extremists attacked a kosher supermarket and satirical newspaper offices in January, leaving 20 people dead including the attackers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.