More magistrates for Marseille after 'explosion' in drug crime

Marseille (AFP) –


France's justice minister promised more magistrates for Marseille on Tuesday to help clear a backlog of cases as the port city deals with an "explosion" of drug-related gang violence that has seen four people killed in the last week.

Eric Dupond-Moretti visited France's third-biggest city on Tuesday, reflecting concern about crime and insecurity there following a spike in tit-for-tat gang attacks that saw one man burned alive inside a car at the weekend.

"The justice system needs resources," Dupond-Moretti told reporters, adding that he would "respond favourably in the coming days" to demands from the heads of Marseille's court system for more magistrates to prosecute and judge suspects.

Two people died overnight Saturday-Sunday in a drive-by shooting in the poverty-wracked 14th district of Marseille, while another man was forced into a car in the centre of the city that was set on fire shortly afterwards.

Last Wednesday, a 14-year-old was killed by automatic gunfire, also in the northern 14th district, close to an area known as a drug-dealing hotspot.

Marseille's chief prosecutor, Dominique Laurens, told a press conference on Monday that there had been an "explosion" in gang-related murders since the middle of June.

Twelve people have been killed in the last two months, according to police figures.

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to visit next week and address the city's entrenched poverty and public order problems, eight months from presidential elections in which crime is set to be a key theme.

Marseille's northern districts, some of France's poorest areas and a world away from the wealthy seafront neighbourhoods, are the focus of the city's drug and gang problems.

"My children want us to leave. It's a disaster what we have to live through here," a mother in the 14th district told AFP on Tuesday on condition of anonymity.