One dead in attack on missionaries' home in France, suspect at large

Police are searching for an armed man after finding a dead woman in a retirement home where some 60 missionaries are living in southwestern France, sources close to the matter said on Friday.

According to one source, a caretaker contacted the police after freeing herself up after being bound and gagged by the suspect and escaping from the home in Montferrier-sur-Lez about 10 kilometers in the countryside north of Montpellier.

On entering the building, police found the body of a woman who had been stabbed several times, the source said.

"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, adding that the search in the building was over.

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

"Nothing at this stage would indicate that this would be a terrorist act," another source said. He added that the suspect had fled before security forces arrived.

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 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.