Three police officers were shot dead in Puy-de-Dome in central France on Wednesday after being called out to a domestic disturbance, sources in the public prosecutor's office told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The police officers, including a fourth who was wounded in the incident, were shot by a 48-year-old man as they attempted to rescue a woman.
Police approached the house shortly after midnight and were targeted by gunfire.
The gunman initially shot and killed one officer and wounded another, before setting fire to the house.
Two further officers, responding to the scene, were then fired on and killed, according to the Clermont-Ferrand prosecutor's office.
Officials said the woman had been safely rescued, and that at least seven elite tactical police officers remained on site.
"The greatest precautions are being taken with regard to the dangerousness of the individual," a source close to the investigation told AFP.
The gunman is said to be known to authorities for charges relating to child custody issues.
Firefighters are also on site attempting to control the blaze.
The prefecture of Puy-de-Dome told AFP that the situation was still developing.
Last week, Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, urged France to amend its controversial national security bill.
In a letter addressed to the French Senate, Mijatovic said: "The European Court of Human Rights has acknowledged the crucial role played by the media in informing the public about the management of public demonstrations by the authorities and considers that the infringement by Article 24 of the freedom to impart information is especially unjustified in view of the fact that law enforcement officers are already protected from such harm by many existing legal provisions.’’
Article 24 of the legislation, which is pending approval in Parliament, makes it an offense to show the face or reveal the identity of a police officer on duty in order to protect them from online harassment. It has drawn criticism from journalists and human rights activists, as well as the United Nations for severely curtailing fundamental rights and press freedoms.
She questioned the proposed surveillance in the bill via body cameras worn by security personnel, drones and access to CCTV footage of public and private spaces, calling it a violation of international standards of the protection of privacy.
Mijatovic said it was "crucial where possible to avoid placing the law enforcement agencies in situations of extreme tension" and "reduce the risks of abuse and excessive use of force."
The bill ignited nationwide protests which escalated further following gruesome footage of the French police violently assaulting and racially abusing a black music producer.
President Emmanuel Macron described the incident as shocking.
Amid the blowback and national outrage, the Macron administration has agreed to submit a new version of the bill.