Masked gang armed with Kalashnikovs open fire in Marseille

Masked men armed with Kalashnikov rifles caused panic on a housing estate in Marseille on Monday when they opened fire and reportedly took one man hostage before getting involved in a gun battle with police.

Masked gang armed with Kalashnikovs open fire in Marseille
Photo: AFP

The incident, which is not being investigated as terrorism, occurred at around 5pm on Monday and was captured in amateur video footage and posted on social media (see below).

At least one person was injured when the gunmen, all dressed in black, pulled up in three vehicles near a cultural centre in the Busserine district and began shooting into the air.

The injured man was reportedly hit with the butt of a rifle.

Reports in the French press say the armed gang appeared to be hunting for someone in particular. Images show them pointing their guns at several locals before they sped off.

Local prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux said the gunmen were involved in a brief exchange of gunfire with police who were called to the scene. No officers were injured.

“According to a witness, one person was abducted in a car whose occupants shot in the air several times,” Tarabeux told local media. An investigation has been launched.

The Busserine area is in the Marseille's notorious 14th district which has been plagued by gun violence carried out by drug gangs.

Six people have been killed in shooting related to drugs turf wars since the beginning of the year.

French senator Samia Ghali said: “This has become everyday life for the people in these neighbourhoods.”

“What's worrying is that children, who are still at an age of innocence are confronted by scenes that you would only find in films forbidden for under-18s.”

On Tuesday police found two burned out vehicles not far from the scene of Monday's shooting. Although it was not clear whether two burned out cars were those used by the gunmen.

READ ALSO: Marseille – Is the city a murder capital or a must-visit?

Marseille: A murder capital or a must-visit?

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IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste

Torrential rain hit the city of Marseille in the south of France on Sunday and Monday, just days after local waste collectors ended a week-long strike, leading to fears of "catastrophic" waste making its way to the ocean.

IN PICTURES: How floods and a bin strike left Marseille submerged in waste
A man stands on a beach covered with cans following heavy rains and a strike of waste collectors in Marseille on October 5th. Photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

Marseille is located in the Bouches-du-Rhône département, which Météo France placed on red alert for heavy rain and flooding on Monday. Schools in the area shut and people were warned not to leave their homes as two months’ worth of rain fell in a single day in the Mediterranean city, after heavy rains had already caused flooding on Sunday night.

The situation was compounded by the fact that uncollected garbage was blocking storm drains in certain parts of the city – drains which would normally be cleared ahead of heavy rain – and making it more difficult for emergency services to intervene.

The city’s waste collectors had begun clearing the streets on Saturday after an agreement between unions and local authorities put an end to an eight-day strike over an increase to working hours.

But rain over the weekend made the monumental job even more difficult, and the result was that “rivers of rubbish” flowed through the city’s streets on Monday.

“Rubbish is everywhere. It’s a catastrophe,” biologist Isabelle Poitou, director of the MerTerre association, told AFP. “We’re expecting a strong mistral wind which will push the rubbish, which is currently making its way towards the sea, onto the beaches.”

“It’s vital to come and clear the rubbish from the beaches on Tuesday or Wednesday,” she added. “We need to act before the rubbish gets scattered in the sea at the first gust of wind.”

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille.

A woman collects waste on a beach after heavy rains and following a strike of waste collectors in Marseille. Photo: Christophe SIMON / AFP.

The video below tweeted by BFMTV journalist Cédric Faiche shows the state of a beach in Marseille early on Tuesday morning. “It’s been cleaned several times but cans and different types of plastic continue to arrive…” Faiche wrote.

However, Faiche told BFM there are similar scenes every time there is heavy rain in Marseille, even if the strike has made the situation even worse.

Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin shared a video of the “sad scene” captured in Marseille on Sunday night. “Discussions between trade unions and the city must not make us forget what really matters: we are all responsible for our seas and our oceans!” she said.

“It’s unacceptable,” Christine Juste, deputy mayor in charge of the environment in Marseille told BFM on Tuesday, criticising the “lack of reactivity” in collecting leftover rubbish following the end of the strike on Friday.

“Why wait so long? In the 6th arrondissement, there has been no collection since the announcement that the strike was over,” she said.

IN PICTURES: See how the deluge has left parts of France’s Mediterranean coast submerged

The Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis intercommunal structure, rather than city hall, is in charge of rubbish collection in Marseille.

On Monday morning, the Metropolis dispatched 650 workers to clear away as much waste as possible ahead of the heaviest rainfall which was forecast for the afternoon.

On Monday evening, Marseille’s Mayor Benoît Payan told franceinfo that 3,000 tonnes of garbage were still yet to be collected in the city. “I asked the Prime Minister this evening to class the zone as a natural disaster,” he added.