Marseille police get pump shotguns to fight crime

French President Nicolas Sarkozy told police working in the south of France they would be allowed to use pump shotguns to tackle the city's a crime spike. In November, a policeman was shot while trying to intercept suspected burglars on the run.

French police will receive 150 pump shotguns and 600 new balistic shields before the end of the year, Sarkozy told police unions during a visit to the southern city of Marseille.

Police have been facing a spike in shootings on the French Riviera, with criminals using kalashnikovs. Four people, including a 37-year-old policeman, died in the attacks.

Sarkozy and Interior Minister Claude Guéant met policemen in Marseille to express their support on Thursday. Sarkozy also announced the death of the policeman who was shot during a car chase north of Marseille. Hit in the head and in the stomach, the father of two was in a coma since November.

The Greens and the Communist Party have criticised Sarkozy’s decision to increase police firepower and said it was irresponsible to start an arms race with local gangsters, French weekly Nouvel Observateur reported. The Communist Party instead say they want more policemen patrolling the streets.

Far right leader Marine Le Pen also criticised Sarkozy and said he should be tougher on crime. She says police aren’t allowed to use their weapons and should benefit from the presumption of legitimate defence.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”