ONE of the busiest train stations in Europe was placed on lockdown as heavily armed cops reportedly hunted for “three dangerous men”.
Officers from Research and Intervention Brigade police unit reportedly ordered passengers off a train arriving at Paris’ Gare du Nord as a major search operation was launched for the wanted men.
French authorities confirmed a police operation was underway at the station, Eurostar trains arrive in the French capital from London.
The Paris police headquarters said the operation was to “dispel any doubt” about a threat, but would not give more details.
However reports in Le Parisien claimed cops were hunting for “three dangerous men”.
Officers are said to have emptied the train of more than 200 people that was arriving from the northern town of Valenciennes as they searched for the trio, whose profiles were apparently flagged to French security chiefs by a “partner country” on Friday.
Since then, there have been three reported sightings in Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux.
The latest sighting was made by a conductor and a ticket vendor, the paper claimed, and sparked the huge police presence.
Video and pictures posted on social media showed heavily armed cops charging through the station and closing off the front of the building at around 11pm local time.
Witnesses also spoke of being told to run amid panic and confusion at what was going on.
Dave James Phillips, a 39-year-old British technology consultant, said he was getting off the last train in from London when he saw officers flooding the station.
He said: “There were police immediately, and a chap with his hand on his gun.
“As we were walking down the platform, one came down and said, ‘Rapide, rapide! Out, out!’”
Phillips said police kept pouring into the station as passengers were hurried out and police buses and unmarked cars were “driving quite dramatically up the road”.
Another witness named only as Benjamin, 29, was quoted in local media as saying he had just got off a train from Lille at 11.15pm when cops “asked us to leave the station fast”.
He said: “As we were going towards the metro, we crossed paths with a more heavily-armed police unit.”
He described how “people around us started to panic, shout and run towards the metro exits” in the ensuing chaos.
By 1.30am, the operation appeared to be winding down, with police on the outskirts of the cordon around the station beginning to pack up and the cordon was gradually pared back.
Police later tweeted: “Checking complete, gradual return to normal.”
Paris police spokeswoman Johanna Primevert later confirmed the operation was aimed at “removing doubt” but said it ended with no arrests.
The station was the scene of a similar panic last month when a man wielding a knife was arrested by armed cops.
France is under a state of emergency imposed after a series of Islamic extremist attacks.
The operation came the day after a tense and closely watched presidential election that was won by independent Emmanuel Macron.
He has said one of his top priorities will be ensuring France’s security.