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Masked gunmen fire at police in French city of Marseille

Boris Horvat, AFP | Police officers take up positions during an operation at a housing estate in the French city of Marseille on February 9

Masked gunmen opened fire on a police vehicle in the southern French port city of Marseille on Monday as the country’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls was due to arrive for a scheduled visit.

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The men were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, said Pierre-Marie Bourniquel, regional director of public security. There were no immediate reports of injuries. 

Caroline Pozmentier, deputy mayor of Marseille, suggested the incident was part of a problem of drug trafficking in the area.

"This battle against drug trafficking is a long-term battle," she said, adding that a nearby school had been evacuated.

Seven Kalashnikovs and around 20 kilos (about 44 pounds) of narcotics were later found at the site of the shooting, according to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

The incident happened as Valls, accompanied by Cazeneuve, arrived in Marseille for a two-day trip to commend the city’s recent drop in crime rates.

Elite police were sent to the scene in the city’s northern La Castellane housing estate, where residents were ordered to remain indoors. The complex has since been sealed off.

France has been on high alert since last month's attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of 17 people.

Last week, two soldiers protecting a Jewish organization and radio station were wounded in a knife attack in the city of Nice.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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