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CRIME

French police officer killed in drugs bust was ‘hero in the war on drugs’

French politicians and police unions paid tribute on Thursday to an officer killed during a drugs raid in the southern city of Avignon.

French police officer killed in drugs bust was 'hero in the war on drugs'
Police at the scene of the drug bust in Avignon, southern France, on May 5th. Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

The 36-year-old officer and father of two was killed on Wednesday evening while investigating a gathering at a spot in central Avignon known for drug-dealing, interior minister Gérald Darmanin said.

On arriving at the scene around 6.30pm the plainclothes officers began to carry out identity checks on those present when a suspect opened fire, a police source told AFP.

The source said the man fired “several times” at the slain officer and that the other officers returned fire but did not manage to apprehend the shooter before he fled on a kick scooter.

Darmanin said that the police and emergency services attempted in vain to save the officer’s life and called it “a terrible tragedy”.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin held a press conference at the police station in Avignon. Photo: CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP

The killing caused shock among the police, who had for months been warning that the drug-related violence that has long afflicted Marseille, a key hub in the trans-Mediterranean marijuana and cocaine trade, had spread to other southern cities such as Avignon, Montpellier and Perpignan.

READ ALSO: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A police union official said that the officers involved in Wednesday’s operation were in plainclothes but wearing police armbands.

Visiting the scene on Wednesday evening Darmanin eulogised the dead officer as a “soldier”, saying he “died a hero” in what he called a “war” against drug dealers.

Polls show crime being one of the top concerns of voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, in which Emmanuel Macron is expected to seek a second term.

ANALYSIS: Are crime rates really spiralling in France?

The police complain that the state is not doing enough to protect them as they take the fight to drugs syndicates and radical Islamists.

“Today we have to admit that the state is no longer protecting its officers,” Frederic Lagache, a representative of the Alliance police union told AFP on Thursday. 

Eric Ciotti, an MP for the centre-right Les Républicans party, accused the government of “looking the other way” while “France sinks deeper into chaos every day.”

The deputy leader of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), Adrien Quatennens, said for his part that it was time to reopen the debate about legalising marijuana.

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POLICE

France charges teen over ‘imminent terror attack’ plot

French authorities have charged an 18-year-old man on suspicion of planning an imminent terror attack with a knife in the name of Islamic State (IS) jihadists, a judicial source said on Wednesday.

France charges teen over 'imminent terror attack' plot

Initial investigations indicated that he planned to carry out a terror attack “in the name of IS, to which he had pledged allegiance,” said the source, who asked not to be named, adding that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.

The source added that the man had been detained in the Drome region of southeast France and charged in Paris.

The man, from a Muslim family, had adopted extremist views and was considered a threat, sparking France’s anti-terror prosecutors office (PNAT) to open an investigation on May 19, a source close to the case said.

Police arrested him on Friday and a video of him swearing allegiance to IS was found in his possession.

The source did not say whom he was planning to target in the attack or in which location.

France saw a wave of jihadist attacks from 2015 that left hundreds dead and pushed the country to its highest level of security alert.

There has been no repeat of a mass atrocity in the last years, but there have been several deadly attacks carried out by lone individuals

More to follow

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