French prison raid: ‘unprecedented’ hunt for escaped prisoner

An ‘unprecedented’ hunt is underway in northern France for a prisoner who escaped during a deadly ambush.

Mohamed Amra, known as “The Fly”, was taken back to prison by a court in Normandy on Tuesday after a car crashed into his prison car at a tollbooth.

The gunmen then opened fire on the vehicle, killing two police officers and seriously injuring three others.

“All means will be used to find these criminals,” said French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Darmanin told French media on Wednesday that the attack was “cold barbarism” and that some 450 gendarmes and police had been mobilized to the Eure department in Normandy for “unprecedented” searches.

President Emmanuel Macron told France that “everything will be done to find the criminals”.

Meanwhile, unions of French prison officers called for walkouts in facilities across the country on Wednesday in support of the two victims.

In a joint statement, the unions called for urgent action to improve worker safety, including a “dramatic reduction” in prisoner transfers to court, promoting “reform” of video conferencing and attendance levels.

A minute’s silence will follow at 11:00 (09:00 GMT) on Wednesday, and local media reported protests outside French prisons, including in Paris.

French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti has announced that he will meet with union representatives.

Who escaped the French prisoner Mohamed Amra?
Paris state prosecutor Laure Beccuau told a press conference on Tuesday that the attack happened shortly before 11 a.m. local time, when the van carrying Amra crossed a bus stop in Incarville, in the Eure region of northern France, and “immediately hit a Peugeot vehicle to stop it.”

“Men with long guns got out and were accompanied by other armed men who probably got out of an Audi vehicle that followed the prison vehicle.”

They “fired several times” at the two vehicles, killing and injuring the officers, before leaving the scene and taking Amra with them.

According to the prosecutor of Paris, on Tuesday two vehicles were found in different places, which were allegedly used by criminals.

Dupond-Moretti told reporters on Tuesday that one of the officers killed “a woman and two children who were supposed to be celebrating their 21st birthday in two days.”

When the second officer killed, 34 years old, leaves behind a wife who is five months pregnant.

Three more policemen were injured in the attack. According to local media, Ms Beccuau said the three injured officers were also fathers – aged 48, 52 and 55.

“Everything – and I mean everything – is being set up to find the perpetrators of this a heinous crime,” Dupond-Moretti said, adding that the perpetrators were “people for whom life has no value.”

They will be found and punished “in a manner proportionate to the crime,” the attorney general added.

On May 10, Amra was convicted of burglary and prosecutors in Marseille charged him with fatal kidnapping.

His lawyer, Hugues Vigier, told French news channel BFMTV that “he would like to believe that he [Amra] did not know about the plan to release him.”

“For me, this plan doesn’t match what I know about him. If he’s behind it, I wouldn’t be able to figure out who he is,” Vigier added.

According to some French media, Amra tried to escape from his captor earlier this week by sawing Sell’s poles.

A prosecutor from the capital Beccuau said in a press conference that Amra had 13 convictions, the first of which dates back to October 2009 – when he was 15 years old.

Although the man, now 30 years old, was not an “observation prisoner”, the Paris prosecutor said that his transport required a “three-level escort”.

Amra is said to have ties to a gang in southern Marseille that has been plagued by drug-related gang violence.

But his criminal record so far does not include any drug convictions, Paris prosecutors said Tuesday.

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