Interpol issues wanted notice for escaped French gangster

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French prison escapee Redoine Faid.

French prison escapee Redoine Faid.

French prison escapee Redoine Faid.

(CNN) — Interpol on Monday issued an international wanted notice for a French gangster who authorities say used explosives as part of a brazen escape from a prison in Lille over the weekend.

Redoine Faid held five people, including four guards, at gunpoint at the detention center in the city in northern France on Saturday, officials said. He then burst his way to freedom by detonating explosives that destroyed five doors, penitentiary union spokesman Etienne Dobrometz told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Interpol’s wanted notice, known as a red notice, comes after a European arrest warrant covering 26 countries was issued for him.

Red notices alert police agencies across the world that a person is wanted, but they are not arrest warrants. Each of Interpol’s 190 member countries is expected to apply its national laws and standards in determining whether to detain the wanted person.

Faid’s escape has raised a number of questions: How did an inmate get guns and explosives? How did he manage to use those to force his way out? And, after all that, why is he still at large?

The four guards who Faid allegedly held hostage “are safe and sound,” Lille prosecutor Frederic Fevre said.

Still, officials from the prison guards’ union pressed French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to make prisons safer, including more thorough searches of those who enter, BFMTV reported.

The escape may be due partly to a problem plaguing the prison that couldn’t hold Faid: overcrowding.

Built in 2005, the Lille-Sequedin penitentiary is not old, but it’s not well designed to keep watch of prisoners, said Jimmy Delliste, a former associate director there.

“The construction … makes it particularly difficult to manage detainees, who are particularly difficult to watch,” Delliste told BFMTV.

And such a prison was holding a convict who fashioned himself as a modern-day gangster.

Faid thought big, getting inspiration from the movies. He wore a hockey mask, like Robert DeNiro’s character in the movie “Heat,” and acted audaciously in attacking armored trucks among other targets.

In 1998, after three years on the run during which he fled to Switzerland, Faid was caught. Sentenced to 20 years, he spent time in high-security prisons around France.

After more than a decade behind bars, the Frenchman insisted he’d changed. But this promise didn’t last long, French authorities said.

In 2011, a year after the publication of his autobiography, “Robber: From Suburbs to Organized Crime,” Faid, who was free at the time, landed back behind bars.

Jean-Louis Pelletier, Faid’s lawyer, is not surprised by the breakout.

Pelletier had planned to meet his client soon in preparation for an upcoming trial tied to a May 2010 attack in Villiers-sur-Marne, east of Paris, that left a 26-year-old policewoman dead.

“He is remarkably intelligent, and he is using his intellect to serve his ambitions,” Pelletier told BFMTV. “(And Faid) cannot stand being imprisoned anymore.”

This article was written by CNN’s Per Nyberg and Jason Hanna.  TM & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.