An unidentified attacker on a scooter has shot dead two French paratroopers near their base in the southwestern city of Montauban. The soldiers were at an ATM machine, in uniform, when the assailant struck.
Two uniformed French paratroopers were killed and another wounded in the city center of Montauban on Thursday, after an unidentified shooter on a moped opened fire. The soldiers were stood at a bank cash machine; two of them died on the spot.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, and witnesses said that the assailant was wearing a full-face crash helmet during the attack.
Local police set up a string of roadblocks in a major deployment aimed at catching the attacker, with police and gendarmes taking part in the search. Officials also said that they believed the attacker had acted alone.
The French defense ministry had initially announced that three soldiers had been killed, who were members of the locally-based 17th Parachute Engineering Regiment (RGP). It later said that two of the men, aged 26 and 24, had died while a 28-year-old soldier was in a serious condition with a head wound.
"The defense ministry is confident that the justice system, under the authority of French prosecutors, will be able to shed all light on this criminal act as quickly as possible," Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in a statement.
The incident follows an apparently similar shooting on Sunday, when a 30-year-old soldier was killed by an assailant on a motorbike in a residential area of Toulouse, just 46 kilometers (29 miles) south of Montauban. That victim was also a member of a parachute regiment.
Police refused to comment on whether the shootings might be linked.
The 1,000-troop 17th RGP regiment is comprised mostly of sappers specializing in mine and explosives clearance, breaching fortifications and urban warfare. The unit has served in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Balkans in recent years.
msh/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)