Police search for gunmen who held up Paris store

A total of 18 people were held in building during robbery in Villeneuve-la-Garenne

French police are searching for gunmen who attempted to rob a store in a shopping centre near Paris on Monday morning.

A total of 18 people were freed from the store in Villeneuve-la- Garenne, in the Hauts-de-Seine region to the northwest of the French capital, after a number of hours.

French media earlier reported that armed robbers were holding the people hostage at the store.

The gunmen, who broke into the Primark store at about 6.30am, are still at large. Police are searching for the attackers in the area.

A Paris regional police official said the assailants had been trying to rob the store before the stand-off commenced. The centre and the surrounding area are closed to the public because of the security operation.

The premises was surrounded by French special forces after the news broke and television images showed several officers entering a side door of the shopping centre.

The police could not confirm if the people had been held hostage, although there was no indication it was a terrorist act.

The shopping centre is adjacent to the River Seine, some 10km north of central Paris.

The Paris region remains on high alert for terrorist activity after Islamic extremists attacked a kosher supermarket and satirical newspaper offices in January, leaving 20 people dead, including the attackers.