One dead in attack at French home for retired missionaries

Mel O'Drama

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A woman has been found dead after an armed man entered a retirement home for former missionaries near Montpellier, according to French media reports.

Police responded to the incident late on Thursday evening in Montferrier-sur-Lez in the south of the country.

The home for former missionaries to Africa has been evacuated, but the suspect remains at large.

There is no indication that this is a terrorist incident, sources close to the investigation said.

Reuters reported that the dead woman contacted police before she was killed with a knife. A caretaker contacted the police after escaping from the home, it said.

French newspaper Le Figaro said the dead woman was found bound and gagged.

It also said that one man, "hooded and armed with a knife and sawed-off shotgun", broke into the home, citing sources close to the investigation.

Le Figaro also reported that all floors in the building had been inspected, and police were widening the search to the surrounding area.

The mayor of the town, Michel Fraysse, told the AFP news agency the building was home to around 60 former missionaries, six or seven lay people, and another six or seven nuns.

It is understood around 60 residents of the building have been safely evacuated.

A correspondent for AFP said 15 police vehicles and a dozen belonging to the fire service were stationed a few hundred metres from the building.

France remains in a formal state of emergency since a wave of terrorist attacks last year.