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France

Police ‘ambushed’ in Parisian suburb

Latest update : 2009-05-18

French police were the targets of an apparent ambush in La Courneuve, a suburb north of Paris with a reputation for crime. A witness claims the weapon used was a Kalachnikov rifle.

AFP - French security reinforcements were dispatched to a Paris suburb on Sunday after gunmen armed with a military weapon opened fire on police officers escorting detaineees.

No one was injured in the exchange of fire, but Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie voiced concern over the use of the Kalashnikov-type weapon in the attack, saying "the outcome could have been much worse."

Four police officers were escorting the detainees from a hospital, where they had undergone a routine medical checkup around 3:00 am (0100 GMT) Sunday in a rundown area north of Paris, when the gunmen opened fire.

The assailants blocked the police vehicle with two cars at La Courneuve and opened fire with a "heavy-calibre weapon, probably a Kalashnikov", said a police official.

The Paris suburbs have seen a spate of clashes with police, but gun violence involving the use of military weapons is rare.

"It's the first time that I have seen a military weapon being used in this context," said Jean-Francois Herdhuin, head of security for the Seine-Saint-Denis department.

Herdhuin suggested that the gunmen may have been drug traffickers and announced that police reinforcements had been sent to La Courneuve, a collection of public housing estates that have been plagued with high crime.

Police union official Thierry Maze said the police officers "were ambushed by individuals armed with military weapons, because they had just arrested a gang leader."

"Our colleagues are worried about the excesses and mounting violence in Seine-Saint-Denis," he said.

At least one detainee managed to flee during the exchange of fire but was later caught, police said.

Following the attack, the UNSA-police union urged French authorities to take action to defuse tension in the high-immigrant suburbs, saying a "catastrophe was averted, but what about next time?"

Date created : 2009-05-17

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