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Shocked France faces violence


If France is a country of fantasy—a beautiful and alluring land that offers many of life’s greatest pleasures, but beneath which lies a violent world of crime-ridden, drug-infested A rude awakening to this dual reality.

Last week, the Olympic flame arrived on French soil, arriving in the ancient port city of Marseille, and the beautiful port was packed with joyful crowds. Ahead of the Olympics, which opens in July, talk has been peaceful. But the flame has also arrived in the city, whose northern district is the epicenter of France’s drug trade and where drug-related shootings last year left 49 people dead and 123 injured.

Mohamed Amra, a mid-level prisoner under investigation in Marseille for possible links to drug-related homicides, has been freed after two prison guards were ambushed and murdered in cold blood on a main highway on Tuesday. The incident shocked France. The operation, just 85 miles from the capital, was carried out methodically in broad daylight on the main road from Paris to Normandy. Its methods are consistent with the brutality of the booming drug market.

Senator Jérôme Durain, a member of the Socialist Party and one of two authors of a Senate committee report on drug trafficking in France that was completed this week, was not shocked by the killings. “The world we find is a world of unlimited violence, and the people involved are often young people who have no conscience and have completely lost their sense of the value of life,” he said in an interview. “It’s completely appropriate.”

“Corruption has started to spread because there is so much money,” he said, suggesting the ambush may have been prompted by security service compromise.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in March that France’s drug trade was currently worth about $3.8 billion a year, but other estimates put it as high as $6.5 billion. The French customs administration said the amount of ecstasy and amphetamines seized by customs authorities increased by 180% in 2023.

According to the French Customs Service’s annual report, nearly 93 tons of drugs worth $927 million were seized last year. Cannabis, which is illegal in France, is the most seized drug, followed by cocaine, the Senate report said.

Amra, 30, known as “The Fly”, has disappeared along with at least five of his attackers. There is no conclusive evidence that the ambush that led to Amra’s release was unusually complex, reflecting the possibility that he was a drug addict. owl. He has been convicted 13 times for crimes including racketeering and assault, and the Marseille case involved drugs, but he has yet to be convicted of drug-related charges.

Undated photo of Mohammed Amra.Credit…Interpol

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stressed the link between the killings and drug trafficking in testimony before the Senate. “Senator Duran, you are wary of the link between this disgraceful attack on the Earle toll booth and drug trafficking. I am not that wary. There is a link. It’s obvious.”

He added that “the greatest threat to the unity of our country is drug trafficking” and urged the country to “take 100 times more action than we have done so far”. He called the report by center-right Republican Senators Duran and Etienne Blanc on France’s drug problem absolutely correct.

“We all have to wake up. We have to fight drugs, drugs are never joyful, they are deadly,” Mr Darmanin said. “No argument should be made by anyone in the future to accept their consumption.”

This is an extraordinary call to action. Senator Duran said in an interview that France unites to effectively fight terrorism, but has never done so to fight the drug trade that takes more lives. That must change, he said.

As the hunt for Mr Amra continues, InterpolThe international organization that helps police agencies around the world share information on fugitives and crimes issued a red notice for him – effectively an urgent request from France for assistance in finding Amra, raising the possibility that he might have crossed the border.

Senator Duran said French President Emmanuel Macron visited Marseille with much fanfare in March to announce a crackdown on what he called a “terrible scourge” of drug trafficking, but the situation continued to worsen.

“Marseille is ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to all-out fighting between gangs and violent competition at points of sale, even if the insidious drugs are spreading to smaller towns,” he said. The government operation has been extended to several cities in France Cities and small towns are known as “catch all”. Senator Duran added that its impact would be minimal.

Deputy criminal Pascal Bonnet said police had identified Marseille’s two main rival gangs as “Yoda” and the “DZ Mafia”, responsible for about 35 of the 49 killings last year. As a result of their fierce struggle to control the point of sale. The investigating officer in charge of the southern French region told Le Monde newspaper earlier this year.

In northern Marseille and other troubled communities across the country, North African immigrants have difficulty integrating into French society, where dropout rates are high, violence is common and job opportunities are scarce, provided through groups on WhatsApp and other social media. The cost of $5,500 to drive a car in a drug deal or up to $200,000 in a homicide can be overwhelming.

“There are home delivery services of cannabis or cocaine in Marseille that promote themselves on social media and even sell them like regular business,” said Senator Duran. “It’s commonplace for people in private WhatsApp groups to call it ‘Uber-hash’ or ‘Uber-coke’.”

Mr Amla’s background is unclear. He grew up in Normandy. His most recent conviction this month was for burglary, but he appears to have strong links to the Marseille underworld. On September 26 last year, the country’s judicial court ordered him to be quarantined on suspicion of drug-related homicide in which a burnt body was found in a car in southern France.

Le Monde reported on Tuesday that a criminal investigation showed that although Amra was in jail, “he continued to communicate with the outside world through a line in his sister’s name”.

Several government ministers vowed on Tuesday to recapture Amra and bring his killers to justice, but the longer the hunt goes on, the more embarrassing it becomes for Macron at a critical moment in resolving the issue. Olympic.

On a deeper level, the bloody fiasco, coupled with a Senate report on the drug trade released the same day, appears to have sparked a heated debate about why government efforts to tackle the drug problem have proven so ineffective. This will almost certainly lead to renewed political confrontations over social exclusion and poverty in poor neighborhoods and suburbs of France’s major cities.

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