2 French paratroopers shot dead on street

Associated Press

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — A gunman on a motorbike opened fire on three French paratroopers at a bank machine Thursday in southern France, killing two and critically wounding one, officials said. It was the second such attack in a week targeting French soldiers.

No information was immediately available about the motive for either attack. Police said further investigation was needed before they could determine whether the attacks were linked.

Earlier, the Defense Ministry had issued a statement saying all three paratroopers had died, but a local police official and a Defense Ministry official later said one was in critical condition.

The three uniformed soldiers had been taking money out in the city of Montauban when a helmeted assailant arrived on a motorbike, opened fire and then fled, the police official said.

The attacker appeared to be alone, police said. The attack occurred in the afternoon on an unusually balmy March day.

The police official said the two soldiers killed Thursday were 24 and 26 and the wounded soldier is 28.

Defense Minister Gerard Longuet expressed his condolences to the paratroopers, their families and their regiment. All three served with the 17th paratrooper combat engineering regiment, based nearby.

On Sunday, a 30-year-old paratrooper was fatally shot near a gymnasium in the southern city of Toulouse by an unidentified attacker.

Both incidents occurred north of the French Pyrenees about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from each other.

Witnesses said Sunday's attacker was also on a motorcycle and wearing a helmet, according Toulouse Prosecutor Michel Valet.

Valet said the soldier in that attack was on his day off. He was in the courtyard of a gym in a residential neighborhood during the afternoon when the attacker opened fire, then fled. The soldier was shot in the head.

The solider served in the 1st paratrooper train regiment, based in Francazal, south of Toulouse.

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Samantha Bordes in Paris contributed to this report.

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