A woman has died after a masked man wielding a knife and a sawn-off shotgun stormed a retirement home for Catholic Monks in Montpellier in the South of France.
According to local news sources, armed police scrambled to the Maison de Retraite des Missions Africaines on Thursday night.
“An individual, who was masked and armed with a knife and a sawn-off shotgun came into the retirement home where 70 monks live,” a source told Agence France Presse.
Police have said there is as yet no evidence to suggest the attack is terror-related, but it comes just months after Islamic State supporters murdered a priest in Rouen.
The gunman is believed to have been wearing a hood, entering the home at around 9:45pm local time.
“A supervisor inside the building raised the alarm very discreetly,” the Mail reports a local police source as having commented.
The victim was stabbed and found gagged and bound outside the home, French police said.
The country is still on a high state of alert for terrorism, with the U.S. government warning that terrorists may seize upon the Christmas period and specifically Christmas markets to attack European nations.
UPDATE — 03:51 EST
Police are conducting a large-scale manhunt as the attacker remains at large, while reports a second victim has died remain unconfirmed.
Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret told AFP: “For the time being, there is only one victim.”
Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, secretary general of the French Bishops’ Conference, tweeted: “Our prayers tonight go to the woman who lost her life in this attack on a retirement home.”
UPDATE — 18:43 EST
Local reports suggest that at least 59 of the monks have now been freed with police storming the building. The attacker is believed to still be at large.