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Eight die in Paris gun attack

NANTERRE, France -- Authorities are trying to discover why a lone gunman opened fire at a town hall in western Paris, methodically killing eight people and injuring 19.

When he was finally restrained the gunman, named by police as Richard Durn, 33, cried out: "Kill me, kill me!"

A shocked Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called the shooting rampage "a case of furious dementia," and one presidential candidate called it an "American-style by-product."

Durn, 33, is a local man who witnesses said frequently attended council meetings at Nanterre.

The gunman used two automatic pistols and a revolver to calmly fire at 40 people.

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said one of the guns was a .357 magnum pistol. Some 50 bullets were scattered on the floor of the meeting room after the attack.

Police are holding the man suspected of carrying out the shooting. Journalist Louis Carzou reports (March 27)

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The suspect had no criminal record and had a permit for his guns, which he had bought in 1997 and used for recreational shooting, prosecutors said. His permit came from a gun association.

Durn, of Yugoslav origin, had no criminal record and had visited Kosovo on aid missions. Police were probing a link between the attack and the fact he was unemployed and homeless.

The shooting rampage seemed set to become an issue in France's upcoming presidential election where crime had already risen to top the election agenda. (Full story)

One rightist presidential candidate, Alain Madelin, said the event was "revealing" of the state of rising crime in France and compared it to past events in the United States.

"This American-style by-product, we wished not to have in France," he said.

Both leading presidential candidates visited the scene.

President Jacques Chirac, who met with grieving family members, called the events "a completely unimaginable drama."

Jospin praised city council members for their courage.

"Some members of the council were very brave, they tried to stop him but he kept shooting," the PM told reporters.

The attacker was eventually subdued by others in the room after one official threw a chair at him. That official was then seriously wounded when the suspect started firing again with his free hand. No police were present at the time of the shooting.

Nanterre mayor Jacqueline Fraysse said that when the suspect was finally taken down, he shouted out: "Kill me, kill me!"

Members of the city council were among those killed in the shooting, which happened at 1:15 a.m. (0115 GMT) on Wednesday.

A witness told France Info radio that the gunman started shooting at the end of the meeting as people were putting on their coats to leave.

"We were about to leave when suddenly a man got up and started shooting straight ahead," Nanterre Mayor Jacqueline Frayasse told The Associated Press. (More eyewitness accounts)

The attack did not appear politically motivated. Both leftist and rightist municipal officials were killed.

The assailant was identified as a member of an ecologist movement, the Associated Press reported.

"He was someody opposed to the directives of the city hall," Christian Demercaster, a municipal official from the Green Party who had greeted the man before the session told AP. He denied the suspect was a member of the Greens.

A spokeswoman for the Green Party, which forms part of Jospin's ruling coalition, said, "This crazy gunman is neither a member of the Green party nor a sympathiser."

A visiting contigent of New York City firemen are in the Paris area, and attended the scene with their French counterparts -- though only as observers.

Nanterre is a middle-class neighbourhood near a business district of western Paris.

The killing of two officers during an armed robbery in a Paris suburb in October sparked nationwide strikes by thousands of police officers, demanding more pay and better equipment.

Also in October, a masked gunman opened fire in the central French city of Tours, killing four people.




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