Gunmen kill two guards, free inmate in France prison van attack

Justice minister says two wounded prison guards in critical condition after van ambushed while transporting prisoner to meet an investigating judge in Rouen.

A bullet-ridden prison van is pictured at the site of a ramming attack in the Eure region of northern France [Alain Jocard/AFP]Published On 14 May 202414 May 2024

Armed assailants have killed two French prison officers and seriously wounded three others in a brazen attack on a convoy in Normandy during which a high-profile inmate escaped, officials have said.

The van was transporting prisoner Mohamed Amra to Evreux jail after a court hearing in Rouen when it was ambushed on Tuesday.

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Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said he would join a crisis unit to address the emergency.

“All means are being used to find these criminals. On my instructions, several hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilised,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin posted on X.

“This morning’s attack, which cost the lives of prison administration agents, is a shock for all of us,” French President Emmanuel Macron posted on X.

“The nation stands alongside the families, the injured and their colleagues.”

The attack prompted a significant law enforcement operation in the northwestern region of France as authorities worked to secure the area and apprehend the assailants. The assault took place on Tuesday morning on the A154 motorway, which has since been closed.

Amra was under high surveillance and had recently been sentenced for burglary. He was also under investigation for a kidnapping and homicide case in Marseille, according to public prosecutor Laure Beccuau.

French media reported that Amra was nicknamed “La Mouche” (The Fly).

Beccuau announced an investigation into the attack, now considered a case of organised crime and murder.

“At this stage, we mourn the death of two penitentiary agents in this armed attack, and two are in critical condition,” Beccuau said in a statement.

The investigation will also address organised escape attempts, possession of military-grade weapons, and conspiracy to commit crime.

Law and order is a major issue in French politics in the run-up to next month’s European elections and the incident prompted fierce reactions from politicians, especially the far right.

“It is real savagery that hits France every day,” said Jordan Bardella, the top candidate for the far-right National Rally (RN), which is leading opinion polls for the elections.

Source: News Agencies