June 11, 2014 / 6:00 PM / 5 years ago

Interpol issues international alert over Canadian jailbreak

A combination photo shows the escapees (L-R) Denis Lefebvre, 53, Serge Pomerleau, 49, and Yves Denis, 35, who escaped from Orsainville Detention Centre using a helicopter in suburban Quebec City, Quebec June 7, 2014, in this undated handout picture released by Surete de Quebec on June 9, 2014. REUTERS/Surete du Quebec/Handout via Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - International police agency Interpol said on Wednesday it had issued an international alert for three fugitives who escaped from a Quebec jail in a helicopter, the second airborne prison break in the Canadian province in just over a year.

Authorities in Canada and the United States have been searching for the three men, who were arrested in 2010 and are believed to have ties to organized crime, since Saturday.

They were picked up by a green helicopter, which touched down in the courtyard of the medium-security Orsainville Detention Centre, on the outskirts of Quebec City, the capital of the French-speaking province, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of the U.S. border.

“The three men ... were awaiting trial on charges related to drug trafficking, murder and gangsterism,” the Lyon-based agency said in a statement.

It said that after a Canadian request, Interpol’s headquarters had issued the orange notice to its 190 member countries, “to assist police in identifying, locating and arresting the fugitives”.

The three fugitives, Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49, also face murder charges, according to the Quebec police website, which added the three to its 10 most wanted list on Sunday.

The escape is similar to one in March 2013, when two men broke out of a prison in Saint-Jerome, Quebec, after climbing a rope to a helicopter hovering above the prison’s yard. Both were captured within hours of the escape.

It bears similarities also to the escape of U.S. businessman Joel David Kaplan, who was plucked from a Mexican prison by a helicopter in 1971. That escape was dramatized in the 1975 film “Breakout”, starring Charles Bronson.

“The three men should be considered dangerous and members of the public are not advised to approach them, but instead report any sightings to their local or national police,” Interpol said.

Reporting By John Irish; editing by Ralph Boulton

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