Gunmen ambush French prison van to free drug dealer, kill 2 guards

Gunmen wearing balaclavas ambushed a prison van in northern France on Tuesday to free a drug dealer known as “The Fly”, killing two prison guards, severely wounding three and triggering a major police manhunt.

The brazen, morning attack at a toll booth in Incarville in the Eure region of northern France underlines the growing threat of drug crime across Europe, the world’s No 1 cocaine market.

The fugitive inmate, named Mohamed Amra, is a 30-year-old drug dealer from northern France, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office and police sources. He had been convicted of burglary by a court in Evreux on May 10 and was being held at the Val de Reuil prison.

Amra had also been indicted by prosecutors in Marseille for a kidnapping that led to a death, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. A police source in Marseille said Amra was a drug dealer with ties to the city’s powerful “Blacks” gang.

French police officers stand guard at the Incarville toll station in the north of France on Tuesday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Images on social media showed at least two men in balaclavas carrying rifles circling near an SUV that was in flames. The SUV appeared to have been rammed into the front of the prison van.

Amra’s lawyer, Hugues Vigier, told BFM TV that the violence of the incident did not correspond with the person he knew. He said Amra had tried to escape from prison on Sunday by sawing at the bars of his cell.

“This element suggests that there was an escape attempt in preparation,” Vigier said.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said a major manhunt had been launched.

“All means are being used to find these criminals. On my instructions, several hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilised,” he wrote on X.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said the prison van was attacked while Amra was being driven to meet an investigating judge in Rouen. He said two of the injured officers were in critical condition.

“Absolutely everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime,” he told BFM TV. “These are people for whom life means nothing. They will be arrested, judged and punished according to the crime they committed.”

French police stand guard at the toll station in Incarville after a prison van was ambushed on Tuesday. Photo: EPA-EFE

A flood of cocaine entering Europe each year has turbocharged organised crime across the continent, leading to ever more violent confrontations with police and deadly turf wars between gangs.

“This brutal attack shows the threat of organised crime is as big as the terrorist threat,” the European Union’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson wrote on X. “We must counter it with the same determination.”

Marseille has been the epicentre of France’s gang violence, with a particularly violent war between trafficking gangs.

France’s main prison guards unions called for a symbolic one-day shut down of the country’s jails “to express our emotion in support of our colleagues who died in service”. They also sought an emergency meeting with the justice minister to discuss prison overcrowding and security risks.



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