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Marseille train held up in ‘scene from Wild West’

A gang of youths waving emergency flares managed to stop a high-speed TGV train travelling through a high-security area in Marseille on Saturday in an incident that one police representative described as a “scene from the Wild West”.

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Waving official flares usually reserved for serious emergencies, dozens of youths forced a high-speed TGV train to come to a standstill on Saturday as it left the southern city of Marseille with 150 people onboard.

“They were banging on the windows, taking photos and laughing,” one 19-year-old student who was travelling on the train to Nice with her mother told reporters. “They tried to get onto the train. People started panicking. Then the police arrived.”

The group of 15 to 20-year olds failed to access any of the train carriages but did break into a control box on the side of the train, stealing smoke grenades and throwing them at the vehicle, causing damage to one window. The group then threw stones at police arriving at the scene before running away.

'Attention seeking'

Using the witness accounts of passengers on the train, police were able to detain ten suspects aged 15 to 20 and charge them with obstruction and vandalism.

Police trade union representative David-Olivier Reverdy compared the attack with a scene from America’s lawless Wild West era. “We’ve already had attacks on freight trains in Marseille and inspectors are regularly harassed, but this is something else,” he said.

In July 2012 some 20 young people stopped a freight train in Marseille by placing trolleys, metalwork and breeze blocks on the tracks. The youths then broke into to train and stole large quantities of consumer goods. In 2008 a similar attack saw IT products stolen.

Reverdy said that the assailants behind Saturday’s incident were “more interested in getting attention on the internet than committing a train robbery”. The scene was filmed by one of the group members and numerous train passengers.

 

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