Two young men were shot dead in the southern French city of Marseille on Thursday, in what investigators suspect was a drug-related hit. The killings once again drew national attention to the growing gang violence in France’s second largest city.
Two men in their early 20s were killed by gunmen in the city of Marseille on Thursday evening, in a hit investigators said appeared to be linked to rivalries over the local drug trade. The two gang-related homicides – the 22nd and 23rd this year – showed France’s second largest city continued to struggle with drug-related crime.
The two young men were shot dead in a car in a poor northern neighbourhood of Marseille. The rider in the passenger seat died instantly, while the driver died from gunshot wounds after emergency responders arrived on the scene, local media reported. A third person, the cousin of the dead driver, was able to run away and save his life by taking refuge inside a home.
According to the survivor’s testimony to police, the Renault Clio the victims were driving on Thursday was ambushed: blocked by a vehicle, while the occupants of a second car fired the fatal shots. Police sources cited by French media suggested one of the guns used may have been a Kalashnikov assault riffle.
One of the cars used in the operation –a Volkswagen Golf– was later found burnt out in the town of Pennes-Mirabeau, some 15 kilometres outside the city.
Marseille’s last gangland hit happened on October 11, when a 53-year-old man was shot at close range in broad daylight on the terrace of a crowded café. On that occasion two masked gunmen opened fire in front of dozens of witnesses before fleeing on a moped. The murder was thought to be a retribution killing by organised criminals.
The growing frequency of murders –16 were committed in Marseille in 2011– between feuding drug dealers, as well as the brashness and intense firepower used in the operations, have set off alarm bells in France.
Raging gangland violence, and the local police force’s apparent inability to stop it, prompted Samia Ghali, mayor of Marseille’s 15th and 16th districts, to call in August for the intervention of France's army to take back control of the Mediterranean city’s northern suburbs.
“Faced with the weapons of war being used by these networks, only the army can intervene,” Ghali, also a senator, told local newspaper La Provence at the time. “It no longer makes any difference to send in a police car to stop the dealers. When 10 of them are arrested, 10 others take up the torch. It's like fighting an anthill.”
Ghali’s comments were rejected by lawmakers on both the left and right, but the Socialist-led government of President François Hollande has made efforts to show it was taking a hard-line stance in Marseille.
On September 6, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for an inter-ministerial meeting to address the issue of criminal activities in Marseille. Among other decisions, the government said at the end of the gathering that it would add 120 police on the ground.
However, Marseille’s troubles do not end with its thriving criminal underworld. In mid-October, 30 police officers belonging to the elite anti-criminality squad, or BAC, were detained for questioning as part of an investigation by internal affairs. The officers are suspected of theft and extortion.
FRANCE 24 (with wires)
Date created : 2012-11-02