Police in southern France say a massive manhunt is underway after a masked intruder held residents of a retirement home for Catholic missionaries hostage and slit the throat of an elderly woman before fleeing.
A spokesman for the gendarme service—the French police—said that more than 100 officers have been dispatched to the village of Montferrier-sur-Lez, near the city of Montpellier, after a guard at the monks’ residence alerted them to the attack.
When they arrived, they found a woman gagged and tied up outside the building with three stab wounds.
According to reports, a masked intruder, armed with a knife and a sawed-off shotgun, entered the retirement home where 70 retired Catholic missionaries live.
“One woman, a resident, was assassinated. The security forces have evacuated the residents, about 60, who are safe and sound,” a local official told Reuters.
The elderly religious community, which belongs to the Society of African Missions, houses retired missionaries who had worked in Africa, as well as several nuns.
Authorities searched the building, but the assailant had already fled by the time they arrived. The manhunt includes roadblocks in the area and a helicopter armed with a giant spotlight searching the area.
Montpellier prosecutor Christophe Barret declined to comment on a motive for the attack. He told AFP, “For the moment there is no particular evidence about the motive for this crime.”
“Nothing is pointing towards the motive” of the killer, he added.
France has been under a state of emergency since ISIS operatives attacked Paris last year, killing 130 people. Security was increased at religious sites after an attack on a Catholic church in Normandy in July when two ISIS attackers slit a priest’s throat and held an elderly woman hostage.