Gunman kills eight people at Paris council meeting

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The Independent Online

A man opened fire with automatic pistols at the end of a city council meeting in a Paris suburb early today, killing at least eight people and wounding about 30 others, 14 of them seriously.

Police arrested the suspect, who was described as a man in his 30s who was active in local politics and had attended several council meetings. The man did not speak during the shooting and did not make any coherent statement when he was arrested, officials said.

The attacker used at least two automatic pistols, said rescue worker Laurent Vibert, and 50 shells were scattered inside the meeting room in Nanterre. Mr Vibert said the suspect was apparently a member of the Green Party who was known for strange behavior at meetings.

"It's apparently a case of furious dementia," said Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, who went to the scene, "a horrifying tragedy that harms democracy, a city council meeting in action."

A rescue helicopter took some of the wounded to a nearby hospital. Families of the victims arrived to identify the bodies, which remained in the council hall hours after the shooting.

The bloody rampage took place at about 1.15am as about 40 people attending the meeting put on their coats to leave. Nanterre is a middle class neighborhood near a business district of western Paris.

Mayor Jacqueline Fraysse said she did not know the attacker. There had been no heated debate and the meeting was ending quietly when the shooting began, she said.

"I ended the session," she said. "A man got up. He had been sitting in the public area. He shot straight in front of him, and then he moved to where the council members were sitting."

"He said nothing," she said. "It was long. It lasted many minutes." LCI television said the gunman had methodically recharged his weapon during the shooting.

Rising crime is at the top of France's political agenda ahead of presidential elections in the spring.

Thousands of police officers held nationwide strikes in December, saying they deserve more pay and better equipment because their jobs have become increasingly risky. The protests started after two officers were shot and killed during an armed robbery in a Paris suburb in October.

In October, a masked gunman opened fire in Tours, killing four people.