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French prison guards hurt in two new attacks by radicalized inmates

Prison guards in France suffered two new attacks by radicalized Islamist convicts at separate jails on Tuesday just days after a blade attack by an Al Qaeda inmate left three officers injured.

French prison guards hurt in two new attacks by radicalized inmates
AFP

The latest attack on French prison guards occurred on Tuesday at Tarascon prison in the south of France.

An inmate known to have become radicalized to extremist Islam punched a prison guard in the face, leaving her needing hospital treatment.

While the attack was “not of a terrorist nature”, according to reports it will worry prison authorities and guards alike as they continue to protest to demand tighter security at prisons.

The violent attack comes a day after seven officers were injured – three of whom seriously at a jail in Mont-de-Marsan, south west France.

Violence broke out when the inmate, also described as having been radicalized, was being searched by officers after a bag he was carrying set off the alert as he passed through a security gate.

The situation degenerated and the inmate attacked the officers by kicking and punching them. Three guards suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospital.

One suffered a broken nose and another a broken finger. Other officers suffered facial injuries after being punched.

The justice ministry, which put the number of wounded at five, said the inmate, known for being “very violent”, was under surveillance “because he was radicalised in prison”.

The attack came after guards blocked access to several jails around the country on Monday to demand tighter security after three officers were injured in an attack by a German terror convict last week.

The officers' unions say the blade attack by Christian Ganczarski, who is serving an 18-year sentence over the 2002 bombing of a Tunisian synagogue, illustrated the lax approach of prison authorities to violent convicts.

An anti-terror judge has charged Ganczarski with attempted murder for the attack on the officers, judicial sources told AFP late Monday.

At their protest prison guards used washing machines and a pile of burning tyres to block access to the high-security prison in Vendin-le-Vieil on the border with Belgium where he is being held.

Around 100 officers took part in the protest, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

In an apparent attempt to defuse the situation, the prisons service announced that the director of the facility had asked to be “relieved of his command” following calls by wardens for him to go.

The attacks come as French officials test a range of preventive measures after a string of jihadist attacks over the past two years that have left more
than 240 people dead.

Some of those responsible were involved in Islamist networks in jail. They include Cherif Kouachi, one of the gunmen who attacked satirical magazine
Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, and his friend Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four at a Jewish supermarket two days later.

Dealing with radicalised prisoners and stopping them from converting fellow inmates has been a priority, but the results so far have been mixed.

“De-radicalisation efforts were set up very quickly, and there are lots of gaps,” said Esther Benbassa, a senator who recently led a commission on the issue.

PRISONS

Prisons blocked across France after guards attacked by ‘radicalised’ inmate

Protesting prison guards blocked jails across France on Wednesday morning after two officers were left seriously wounded in an attack by a "radicalised" inmate. It's not the first time staff have been targeted by jihadist inmates.

Prisons blocked across France after guards attacked by 'radicalised' inmate
French prison guards protest after a previous attack by a radicalised inmate. Photo: AFP

Around 20 prisons were blocked across the country on Wednesday morning after unions representing guards called for action.

Protesting prison guards set fire to tyres and built barricades in front of the entrances to the establishments.

They vowed the no staff or visitors would gain access to the prisons as they protested to raise the alarm at the dangers they face on daily basis due to the number of radicalised prisoners.

“Colleagues want to go to work but we do not abandon them, we do not send them to die,” a local union leader at the Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris, Thibault Capelle, told AFP.

 

The action follows Tuesday's incident when a “radicalised” inmate at a prison in northwest France seriously wounded two guards in a knife attack. 

He was later shot and injured in a police raid that also left his visiting partner fatally wounded.

Prisoner Michael Chiolo and his female partner had been holed up in the family-visiting area of the modern, high-security prison at Conde-sur-Sarthe 
in Normandy when police moved in and detained them, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter.

Both were shot and wounded in the operation and “the woman died” of her injuries, a source close to the case said, adding that Chiolo was less seriously wounded in the cheek.

Elite police units moved in some 10 hours after 27-year-old Chiolo wounded the prison guards with a knife which Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet suggested might have been smuggled into the prison by his partner.

“There is no doubt as to the terrorist nature of this attack,” Belloubet told reporters earlier.

Chiolo, who was serving a 30-year sentence, is thought to have become a “radicalised” Islamist while in prison.

He shouted “Allahu Akhbar” (God is Greatest) during his rampage in the family-visiting area, prison staff representative Alassanne Sall told AFP.

The latest violence comes as prison staff nationwide, who have been demanding better working conditions, have repeatedly staged protests on Tuesdays.

(AFP)

In January 2018, prison staff held three weeks of protests after a guard was attacked by a jihadist inmate at a high-security jail in northern France.

Experts and trade unions have consistently raised the alarm about the spread of extremism in French prisons, leading the government to build special facilities to house dangerous individuals who are sometimes held in solitary confinement.

The Conde-sur-Sarthe prison is one of France's most secure jails and does not suffer from overcrowding, unlike other facilities, according to Belloubet.

But despite having been identified as an extremist, Chiolo was not housed in a secure wing for radicalised inmates which was opened in September, she added.

The first “jihadist attack” launched from within a prison in France took place in September 2016, according to prison authorities.

A Moroccan, jailed for attempting to travel to Syria to join jihadists, attacked two guards with a knife at a prison in Osny, northwest of Paris, saying he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State.

Then in January 2018, a German Islamist extremist, Christian Ganczarski, jailed for helping organise an attack against a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, wounded three prison guards in a knife attack at Vendin-le-Vieil, northern France, prompting staff to demand better safety and working conditions.

 

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