- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

TOURS, France A masked man armed with a shotgun killed four persons and wounded seven others in this central French city yesterday, in what French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called an "act of a murderous madness" by a deranged individual.
Local officials said the man, who was later shot by police and arrested, opened fire on passers-by shortly before 10 a.m. close to the main post office and railway station and then turned his weapon on police.
"The maniac got out of his car and put on a balaclava. He looked a bit like Rambo, he had a rucksack, he had blackened his face. He started shooting at people, taking time to take aim at his targets with his gun," a local store owner said.
The Tours government office identified the man as a 44-year-old worker for the SNCF state railway and said he may have had a grudge against his employers.
Police sources said the man had been questioned in a hospital, but his answers were incoherent.
Dominique Schmitt, the government's representative for the Indre-et-Loire region, said the husband and father of three was suffering from depression.
Television film showed armed police leading the man, dressed in a brown leather jacket and jeans, away from the entrance to an underground parking lot in handcuffs with blood on his hands.
Armed police, including some 30 members of the crack RAID squad that deals with major shootings and hostage takings, evacuated the downtown area and surrounded the lot.
A search of the area found no explosives.
Mr. Jospin, speaking in the northern city of Rennes, where he was on a visit, said the gunman appeared to have been deranged.
"The person who opened fire does not appear to have any criminal record," Mr. Jospin told reporters. "It seems to be someone working in the public sector who went crazy."
Local officials identified the dead as four men, aged between 33 and 66. None of the wounded, who included three police officers, was in serious condition.
France has increased the number of police and security forces in downtown cities under an anti-terrorism plan first used in the 1990s during a bombing campaign by Algerian militants.
Mr. Jospin denied there had been a security lapse.
"When someone, if this is the case, is seized by an act of murderous madness, that's not a matter of ordinary security. I don't think the two things should be mixed up," he said.
One of France's police unions, the UNSA, said the shooting highlighted the need for tougher weapons legislation in France, where hunting is a popular pursuit.
It called in a statement for the creation of a national register of gun owners.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide