Almost 500 French security members deployed to catch prison van attackers: Minister

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France has deployed almost 500 members of the security forces as part of a major operation to catch the gang who killed two guards in an attack on a prison van that freed a convict, the interior minister said on Wednesday.

A screen grab from a CCTV video shows a person aiming as gunmen wearing balaclavas ambush a prison van to free a drug dealer in Val-de-Reuil, France May 14, 2024. (Reuters)
A screen grab from a CCTV video shows a person aiming as gunmen wearing balaclavas ambush a prison van to free a drug dealer in Val-de-Reuil, France May 14, 2024. (Reuters)



The killing of the two prison officers at a motorway toll has shocked France, with the authorities under pressure to catch those responsible, who all remain at large.

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“We have put a lot of resources into finding not only the person who escaped,” but also “the gang that released him under such despicable circumstances,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the RTL broadcaster.

“We are putting in considerable resources, we are making a lot of progress,” he added.

On Tuesday, more than 450 police officers and gendarmes were mobilized just for the search in the northern department of Eure where the attack took place, he said.

But, apparently raising the possibility the fugitives could have fled abroad, he also spoke of “international cooperation.”

There are “a lot of legal traces that will allow us to do this identification work,” he said, without specifying further.

Three other prison guards were wounded in the attack, with one fighting for his life.

The convict released was named as Mohamed Amra, 30, who had been convicted of robbery and also charged with abduction leading to death. A suspected figure in gangland drug trafficking circles, he reportedly goes by the name of “La Mouche” (The Fly).

We “will also have to put on trial this savagery that affects our society and that kills fathers of families,” Darmanin said.

“Narco-banditry kills many people, much more than terrorism,” he added, also pointing to the responsibility of drug users.

“One cannot at the same time cry for the widows and orphans of the Eure toll booth attack and then smoke a joint... this is called schizophrenia.”

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