Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Marseilles Gangwar,40 bullets struck the car and the driver was hit 15 times by shots fired from very close range

The city, which has a long history of organised, violent crime, has seen a flare-up in recent months of brutal score-settling among gangs competing in the flourishing drug trade. Kalashnikov assault rifles have become a common weapon after being imported in large numbers from eastern Europe. The new gangs, which are loosely or barely organised, include Balkan criminals and youths from immigrant housing estates and gypsy travellers' camps. Two men were shot dead and two badly wounded in one shooting at a travellers' camp last July. Over a dozen died in drug trade killings last year.
Gunmen armed with an assault rifle and other weapons killed three men and wounded two others in Marseilles today in the worst ambush in recent gang wars among drug dealers of gypsy origin. Attackers armed with a Kalashnikov and up to three heavy pistols ambushed the victims' Peugeot in a rough district in the north of the port city shortly after midnight. More than 40 bullets struck the car and the driver was hit 15 times by shots fired from very close range. One of the wounded was found lying on a nearby railway track with critical chest wounds, while the other was taken to hospital by a friend. The victims, who were apparently unarmed, were ambushed when the other vehicle drew alongside their car while it was stopped at a traffic light in a deserted area. Police assumed that the massacre was prompted by a drug transaction that went wrong. A 250 gram (8.8 ounce) cake of cannabis resin was found at the scene. The five were described as aged 26 to 31 and from semi-permanent camps of travellers which have spread up around the Marseilles area over the past decade. Police have rounded up dozens in raids on the camps in recent weeks but they are struggling to deal with an underworld culture that practises extreme violence. The old Mafia-style gangs that used to rule Marseilles - including those involved in the 'French connection' drug operations of the 1970s - used to impose more discipline.

"The criminal police are working flat out on this new milieu," said Bernard Squarcini, who was Marseiles police chief until President Sarkozy appointed him chief of domestic intelligence last year. "We do not get the time to infiltrate a gang when it has already been decimated," he said. "In the days of Zampa and the Belgian (two notorious gangsters), there had to be a very serious reason for a fusillade. Now they multiply whenever this or that villain comes out of prison."
Jean-Claude Gaudin, the Mayor of Marseilles, insists that the overall crime rate in his city has remained relatively stable in recent years despite the rise in intra-gang violence. However, robbery jumped eight per cent there last year, in line with a surge in Paris and other big cities.


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