Marseille policeman who faced Kalashnikov gang: ‘They do not fear us’

A policeman who ran into the Kalashnikov wielding gunmen on a Marseille housing estate has spoken of the fear he and colleagues face and how they stood no chance against the dangerous criminals "who are not scared of police or the justice system".

Marseille policeman who faced Kalashnikov gang: 'They do not fear us'
Photo: Screengrab Twitter

Shocking images posted on social media showed the Kalashnikov wielding gunmen shooting into the air and pointing their guns at passersby in the Busserine neighbourhood on Monday afternoon.

The images were broadcast around the world and prompted President Emmanuel Macron to admit that France “has lost the battle against drug trafficking” in some areas.

A policeman who was among the squad who responded to emergency calls from residents in the Busserine neighbourhood has spoken of how he and his colleagues live in fear of being killed and how they stood no chance against the Kalashnikovs.

The officer, whose colleague had a gun pointed at him, said the gunmen were impossible to stop because there were so many members of the public around.

“If we had rammed their car or blocked them there would have been a lot of damage. You need to think we had civilians around us and above all there were children. Innocent people would have died.

The officer was shocked by the gunmens' brazen act, which he said was not their usual type of manoevre.

“In general when these individuals go to settle a score and go onto a housing estate to find someone they don't stay too long,” he said.

“But this time, they stayed a long time. They took a huge risk, but they knew it and they are not scared of us. They knew what they were doing.”

The police became involved in a brief car chase with the gunmen in their Renault Megane RS, but they lost the criminals on the motorway.

“We had no chance to catch them. Our vehicles are not adapted for this. They are too heavy with all the equipment we have. We can't catch a vehicle like that,” he said. “Even if we drove at 100km/h they were able to pull away because their car was very powerful.”

The officer also spoke of how they were outgunned by the criminals: his assault rifle versus their Kalashnikovs.

But the main problem for police in Marseille when it comes to drug gangs is not their cars or the guns so much.

“These criminals do not fear the police or the justice system,” he said.

Which means that among the police force in Marseille, a city where certain neighbourhoods have been blighted by gun violence in recent years, there is an increasing climate of fear.

“Of course I am scared,” said the officer. “I am a police officer but I am also a human, a father with a family. Each day I ask myself if I am going to see my children tonight.”

Marseille prosecutors have launched a probe and said “all means would be deployed” to track down the gunmen.

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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.