MONTAUBAN - Three French soldiers were killed Thursday when a gunman on a scooter opened fire on them near a military base in the southwestern city of Montauban and fled, officials said. The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear but officials said they believed the shooter, who was being hunted by police, had acted alone and described the attack as a “criminal act”.The defence ministry said the three soldiers, from the locally based 17th Parachute Engineering Regiment (RGP), were aged 28, 26 and 24. One had been taken to hospital in critical condition and later died from his wounds.“The defence ministry is confident that the justice system, under the authority of French prosecutors, will be able to shed all light on this criminal act as quickly as possible,” Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said in a statement. The official said the scooter-rider, wearing a helmet with visor, fired on the three uniformed soldiers on a street near businesses, shops and a bank branch, then drove off at speed.In recent years the 17th RGP has often been deployed on operations in Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Balkans, having been founded in 1946 and then fighting in colonial wars in South East Asia and the UN action in Korea.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 16-Mar-2012 here.