Paris Primark robbery: Three gunmen 'with sawn-off shotguns' on the run after 18 people escape botched hold-up

'Everyone was panicking and shouting ‘they’re armed, they’re armed. Get out of here,' says eyewitness

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The Independent Online

Eighteen shop workers have escaped unharmed after being held hostage for four hours by three gunmen brandishing sawn-off shotguns in a Primark store near Paris.

The incident, which is thought to have been a botched robbery attempt, began at around 6.30am when three men entered the store, one of 169 shops in the Qwartz shopping centre beside the river Seine in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, just west of Paris.

Police said the 18 shop-workers – not all of them Primark employees – are believed to have taken refuge in the centre's staff canteen.

After surrounding the centre for several hours, police from the elite RAID unit were contacted by text by one of the shop-workers and told that the three attackers appeared to have left the sceme.

Officers then entered the scene and found that the three gunmen, of whom one is thought to be an employee of the store, had fled.

A police spokesman said that the incident was being treated as a robbery attempt and there was no indication of any political or terrorist motive.

A deliveryman said he had seen people fleeing the shopping centre through a loading bay. “Everyone was panicking and shouting ‘they’re armed, they’re armed. Get out of here',” he said.

French police deployed around fashion retailer Primark in the Paris suburban mall Qwartz in Villeneuve La Garene near Paris

One of the shop-workers in the Primark shop raised the alarm about the robbery and hostage-taking by sending a text to a friend, BFM TV reported.

This article will be updated shortly