Notorious thief flees French jail by helicopter AFP

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A notorious French criminal serving 25 years for murder made an audacious escape from prison Sunday after a helicopter carrying several heavily armed commandos landed in a courtyard, freed him from a visiting room and carried him away. Faid is believed to have left by vehicle along with his accomplices.

Redoine Faid, who was France's most wanted criminal before being jailed, escaped from the Seine-et-Marne prison, near Paris, late on Sunday morning July 1.

The helicopter was later found in a northeastern suburb of Paris about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the prison, one source said, adding that a police search has been launched across the entire Paris region.

Redoine Faid is believed to have fled with three armed accomplices after ditching the helicopter used in the prison escape.

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It was the second time he had escaped from a French prison - the last time he blasted his way out with hidden explosives.

French prosecutors have opened an investigation but it's not the first time that Faid, 46, has gone on the lam.

Still, he was the suspected mastermind of the attempted armed robbery in 2010 that led to a high-speed chase and a shootout with police that killed 26-year-old Aurelie Fouquet.

In his 2013 jailbreak, he briefly took four guards hostage with a pistol before escaping in a waiting getaway vehicle. He has said his life of crime was inspired by movies such as "Scarface" and "Heat".

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Faid was eventually recaptured six weeks later at a hotel in an industrial area on the outskirts of Paris.

He fled with three accomplices, according to the sources.

Sud-Francilien prison outside Paris when Redoine Faid had escaped in 2013.

Following a decade in prison, he was released under conditions in 2009 after convincing his parole officers that he had changed.

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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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