Home News Deadly ambush, massive manhunt, and three weeks without arrests

Deadly ambush, massive manhunt, and three weeks without arrests


Dozens of investigators scoured the crime scene in northern France. More than 450 police officers The countryside and surrounding areas were searched. INTERPOL Alert.

French officials said they would spare “no effort and no stone unturned” in hunting down the heavily armed attackers who ambushed a prison convoy in broad daylight, killing two guards and saving one inmate.

But three weeks later Massive manhuntAs of now, the suspect is still at large.

The case raises troubling questions about whether the French justice system fully understood how dangerous the prisoner was and whether overburdened prisons contributed to the incident.

Authorities have remained tight-lipped, refusing even to say how many people were involved in the attack, but they say the investigation has made progress.

Laure Beccou, Paris’ top prosecutor told France Info radio Last week, police said they had “a number of leads that I believe are significant.” She did not elaborate, saying only that the ambush was carefully planned and that the suspects appeared to have planned their hideout.

The attackers disappeared in a stolen car that was later found burned out, and experts said it was a matter of when, not if, they would be caught.

“It always takes a little time,” said Christian Flaesch, a former head of the Paris police’s criminal investigations department, but he added that in the end the fugitives were “almost all caught.”

Violent prison breaks are rare in France, but last month two prison guards were killed in an attack at a motorway toll booth about 85 miles northwest of Paris, the first time guards were killed in the line of duty in 32 years.

“This violence is unprecedented,” said Brendan Kemmet, a journalist who has written books about France’s most famous prison escapees, including the notorious armed robbers Antonio Ferrara and Rédoine Faïd, both of whom escaped using helicopters. 2003 and 2018.

Mr. Ferrara was arrested after four months on the run; Mr. Fayed After threeIt remains unknown how long Mohamed Amra, the prisoner who escaped from prison last month, can remain on the run.

“He is now the most wanted man in France,” Mr Kemet said.

Mr Amra, 30, also known as “La Mouche”, or “The Fly”, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for burglary, among a dozen other offences including extortion and assault.

But he is also under investigation on more serious charges — in Marseille, he is accused of kidnapping and murder, and in Rouen, he is accused of attempted murder and extortion. His lawyer declined to comment for this article.

The Interpol red notice could indicate that there is suspicion that Mr. Amra has fled France. Experts say they cannot rule out the possibility that he has fled abroad, but they note that the ambush took place about 125 miles from the nearest border and that Mr. Amra is from the Rouen area, where he was detained before the attack.

Fugitives “tend to return to familiar places,” Mr. Flesch said.

Fugitives can evade detection by hiding and using networks of criminals or acquaintances. But these networks are now likely to be closely monitored – phones tapped, itineraries tracked, and daily movements scrutinized for unusual activity.

Guillaume Farde, a security expert at Sciences Po Paris, pointed out: An unusually large pizza order Helped the police finally track down his hiding place in Brussels Salah AbdeslamHe was involved in the November 2015 attacks in the French capital that killed 130 people.

“The only way to evade capture, even temporarily, is to stop operating,” Fald said. “Until someone in your entourage makes a mistake or provides a clue — or both.”

Mr. Abdussalam was arrested after the shootout; he had been on the run for four months. But without a business to run, experts say it may be harder for Mr. Amra to keep a low profile.

An undated photo of escaped prisoner Mohamed Amra, also known as “La Mouche,” or “The Fly.”Credit…AFP – Getty Images

Authorities initially described Amra as a mid-level criminal whose characteristics did not fit the dangerous ambush. But details of his investigation published in the French news media paint a very different picture.

According to leaked police reports and phone tap records, Le Parisien and Broadcast FM TV It is reported that Amra used his mobile phone to carry out criminal activities such as drug trafficking and kidnapping for extortion in prison. He also tried to buy an assault rifle in prison.

France’s Justice Minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, acknowledged in parliament last week that Mr. Amra had shown signs of being “dangerous,” “but that does not seem to have been taken into account.”

He has ordered an internal investigation into the prison administration’s handling of Amra — although questions about coordination among other parts of the justice system remain controversial.

In a guest article in Le MondeReferring to the case, the two chief judges, Béatrice Brugère and Jean-Christophe Muller, said France’s efforts to combat organized crime were fragmented among various law enforcement agencies, which did not always cooperate adequately.

Mr. Amra was being investigated separately in different jurisdictions. If those investigations were combined, the judge wrote, it would become clear “how dangerous this criminal and his supporters are.”

It was not immediately clear whether police investigators in Marseille and Rouen shared any information with prison officials, who have stepped up security around Amra’s convoy, but not to the highest level.

Still, the case has drawn attention to overcrowding in France’s prison system.

France’s official prison watchdog Recent Warnings Incarceration rates are climbing every month: In April, jails held nearly 77,500 inmates but had space for fewer than 62,000. Regulators say this leads to overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and violence.

“For the past 10 to 15 years, we have been understaffed and have not been able to recruit enough people to fill the vacancies,” said Wilfried Fonck, a representative of UFAP-UNSA, a union of prison guards that staged protests after the Amra jailbreak. “And on the other hand, the prison population is growing every month.”

Reports of Amra’s business behind bars did not surprise Funke, who noted that drones have delivered cell phones to prisoners in the past and that guards are prohibited from searching inmates leaving visiting rooms, making it easier for contraband to slip in.

Mr. Dupont Moretti, Minister of Justice explain The government will work to address issues highlighted by Amra’s case by deploying more anti-drone and phone jamming tools in prisons, and he said it would also consider allowing more systematic searches and using video conferencing to avoid unnecessary transfers of prisoners.

The unions are hopeful that the government will follow through on this policy, but at the same time they remain cautious.

“The prison has been sick for 30 years,” Mr. Funke said. “It has been fine since yesterday.”

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