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Woman killed in monks' retirement home

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016

A masked gunman has burst into a retirement home for monks in southern France and stabbed an elderly woman to death.

The national military police couldn't immediately say whether the incident in the village of Montferrier-sur-Lez, near the southern town of Montpellier, was linked to a terror act.

A press official said early on Friday that more than 100 members of the security forces have been dispatched on the scene .

The body of the deceased woman was found gagged and tied up outside the retirement home, which houses about 60 monks, the official said.

She had been stabbed several times.

An armed man is still at large while all the residents of the home have been brought to safety, a local official said on Friday.

According to a source close to the matter, a caretaker contacted the police after freeing herself up after being bound and gagged by the suspect and escaping from the home.

The home houses retired missionaries that had worked in Africa as well as some nuns.

"Nothing at this stage would indicate that this would be a terrorist act," another source said.

Security forces searched the four floors of the residence but did not find the assailant.

France is on heightened alert and has been under a state of emergency since a wave of Islamist attacks last year.

Suspects arrested last weekend in France under anti-terrorism measures had been planning to launch attacks on December 1 at important and landmark sites in and around Paris, a source said earlier on Thursday.

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