Gunmen open fire in French neighbourhood

The Old Port of Marseille

Gunmen wielding Kalashnikovs have opened fired in the housing project of La Castellane, north of Marseille.

French newspaper Le Figaro reports that Pierre-Marie Bourniquel, head of the police in the city, has been fired at in what appears to be a gang-related attack.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was set to arrive in Marseille just hours before the shooting. It remains unclear whether his visit was a motive for this latest attack on the police.

Sources used by another newspaper L’Express claim that two hooded men armed began shooting around 10.15am (local time).

Police are now waiting for further instructions.

Samia Ghali, Mayor of La Castellane and Senator for Bouches-du-Rhône, tweeted: “La Castellane under siege. My worst nightmare: war weapons, messages of distress. We can’t ignore it anymore.”

Sources close to Artefact  say La Castellane is one of the most dangerous areas of Marseille and Police are sometimes not authorised to operate in the neighbourhood.

The French groupe d’intervention police nationale (GIPN) carried out an operation in the area around 12.30am (local time).

The gunmen, a group of around ten according to several sources, are now being hunted as a Police helicopter flies over the area.

PM Valls was due to visit Marseille today to congratulate the Police force on the decreasing number of gang and drug-related crimes, Twitter user Lombard Daniele says in a tweet: “Kalashnikov shots in Marseille just when Valls is due to congratulate the [the city] about crime rate lowering.”

Our source reports that La Castellane is a sensitive area known not only to the local Police, but the whole region’s due to extensive connections with gang crimes. In a phone interview with Reuters, Pierre-Marie Bourniquel confirmed there were no “immediate reports of injuries.”

Samia Ghali expressed her concerns on the lack of action in a Tweet following her appearance on iTELE: ” On special forces intervention, I was told I was going too far. Today, I say to them they’re not fast enough.”

Also on iTELE, Henri Jibrayel, member of the French Socialist Party and MP for Bouches-du-Rhône, said about the attack: ” Today we saw terrified families, children kept into schools (…) I don’t want the people of [La Castellane] to be stigmatised because it’s a small group that (…) terrorises everyone. There’s a fruitful drug market, and a parallel economy that needs to be eradicated.”

Jibrayel referred to the Police’s decision to keep children inside of school until the end of the GIPN operation, a move similar to the one undertaken during the siege of the Kosher supermarket in Porte de Vincennes, Paris, in early January following the attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Image by Toby87 via Wikimedia Commons

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