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A well-known robber with links to organised crime on Saturday blasted his way out of jail with explosives as he took several prison wardens hostage in northern France, officials said.
Police and helicopters were trying to track the man, identified by state prosecutor Frederic Fevre as Redoine Faid, a notorious criminal known for robbing cash-in-transit vehicles.
Fevre said Faid, a "particularly dangerous prisoner", was armed and still in possession of explosives.
The prisoner had used the explosives to blast through five prison doors before making his way out of the prison in the town of Sequedin, said prison unionist Etiene Dobremetz.
The state prosecutor said Faid had four hostages with him during the jailbreak. One was released just outside the prison, another a few hundred metres away and then the final two were left along a highway.
The prosecutor Fevre said that while extremely shocked, the wardens were safe and sound.
Faid later set on fire his getaway car, abandoning it south of the city of Lille, and got into a second vehicle which police were attempting to track.
Dobremetz said Faid had received a visit from his wife earlier on Saturday morning, who is believed to have given him the explosives hidden in small tissues.
"It happened very quickly, it was clearly very well organised, we are still busy putting the facts together," a local administrative official said.
Faid is also known for co-authoring a book in 2009 upon his release on parole after a decade in prison for robbery, about his delinquent youth and rise as a criminal in Paris's impoverished crime-ridden suburbs.
He said his life of crime was inspired by American films such as 'Scarface' and 'Heat' -- in which actor Robert de Niro carries out an armoured car heist.
Despite vowing he had turned his back on crime Faid was in 2010 suspected of being the mastermind of an armed robbery in which a young policewoman was killed in a shootout.
He landed back in prison in 2011 for failing to comply with his parole conditions and was due to serve the remaining eight years of his original sentence.