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Gunman Kills 8 at France Town Council Meeting - 2002-03-27

A gunman in a Paris suburb has killed eight people and wounded at least 20 others during a local council meeting. The shootings targeted local politicians during a French election campaign in which growing violence is a major campaign theme.

Local reports say the gunman, who was identified as Richard Durne, in his 30s, frequently attended the municipal council meetings in the town, Nanterre.

The town mayor, Jacqueline Fraysse, told French radio the man opened fire as she wrapped up an ordinary session.

Mrs. Fraysse said the shootings were a terrible drama. She said those killed were young men and women defending their political ideas, who left grieving children behind.

Another witness described the scene as a carnage that left people dead or wounded on the floor of the municipal hall. Police said the killer was armed with automatic weapons and shot calmly. He was tackled as he reloaded one of his guns.

Both President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin arrived in Nanterre to comfort the wounded and the families of the victims. The two men are running against each other in the upcoming presidential elections. Growing violence in France is a major campaign issue.

During an interview on France's Europe 1 radio station, Mr. Jospin defended his government's record against crime and promised more sweeping anti-crime programs if he is elected president. The prime minister also said Mr. Durne had apparently joked with the municipal lawmakers before opening fire. He said the killer did not appear to have any political motive, since he targeted both conservative and liberal politicians in the shootings.