Manhunt launched after two French prison guards killed and inmate freed

Manhunt launched after two French prison guards killed and inmate freed

Elite French police are searching for gunmen who attacked a prison van in Normandy, killing at least two prison officers and freeing the high-security inmate they were transporting.

The French prime minister, Gabriel Attal, told parliament that two prison officers were killed and three others were seriously injured in the ambush at a motorway toll. Attal said the attack had targeted the French republic and the justice system. “The whole country is shocked by this attack of unprecedented violence,” he said after parliament held a minute’s silence for the officers.

The attack took place at around 11am in Incarville in the Eure region of Normandy. A high-security inmate was being transported from a courthouse in Rouen to a prison in Evreux.

A police source said several individuals, who arrived in two vehicles, rammed the police van and fled. One was wounded, the police source said. French media reported that the men were dressed in black, wearing balaclavas and heavily armed.

It was not clear how many attackers there were. The prisoner escaped with them. One of their cars was found burned out.

The Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau named the fugitive prisoner as Mohamed Amra, born in 1994, saying that last week he had been convicted of aggravated robbery and also charged in a case of abduction leading to death.

“Everything is being done to find the perpetrators of this crime,” the president, Emmanuel Macron, wrote on X. “We will be uncompromising.”

The justice minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, said: “Absolutely everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime. These are people for whom life means nothing. They will be arrested, judged and punished according to the crime they committed.”

He said one of the prison officers who was killed was married with two children while the other left a wife who was five months pregnant.

Dupond-Moretti said no prison officer had been attacked in this way in France since 1992.

Alexandre Rassaert, the head of the Eure region council, said: “I am frozen with horror at the veritable carnage that took place at the Incarville toll. I hope with all my heart that the commando team of killers which carried out this bloody attack will be arrested quickly.”

A unit of the GIGN special police force has been dispatched to apprehend the suspects.

Traffic was stopped on the A154 motorway where the attack took place.

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Police guard the road toll in Incarville, where the inmate was being transported from Rouen to Evreux. Photograph: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, wrote on X that he had ordered the activation of France’s Epervier plan, a special operation launched by the gendarmerie in such situations. “All means are being used to find these criminals. On my instructions, several hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilised,” he said.

Law and order is a big issue in French politics ahead of next month’s European elections and the attack caused fierce reactions from politicians, especially the far right.

“It is real savagery that hits France every day,” claimed Jordan Bardella, the top candidate for the far-right National Rally, which is leading opinion polls for the elections.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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