Gunmen wearing balaclavas ambushed a prison van in northern France on Tuesday to free a drug dealer known as “The Fly,” killing two prison guards, severely wounding three and triggering a major police manhunt.
The brazen morning attack at a toll booth in Incarville in the Eure region of northern France underlines the growing threat of drug crime across Europe, the world’s No. 1 cocaine market.
It came on the same day that France’s Senate released a major report on drug trafficking, warning that the country faces a “tipping point” from rising narco violence that represents “a threat to the fundamental interests of the nation.”

The fugitive inmate, named Mohamed Amra, is a 30-year-old drug dealer from northern France, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office and police sources. He had been convicted of burglary by a court in Evreux on May 10 and was being held at the Val de Reuil prison.
Amra had also been indicted by prosecutors in Marseille for a kidnapping that led to a death, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. A police source in Marseille said Amra was a drug dealer with ties to the city’s powerful “Blacks” gang.
Images on social media showed gunmen in balaclavas circling near an SUV that was in flames. The SUV appeared to have been rammed into the front of the prison van.
Amra’s lawyer, Hugues Vigier, said the violence of the incident did not correspond with the person he knew. A major manhunt had been launched, with several hundred officers involved.
Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti said the prison van was attacked while Amra was being driven to meet an investigating judge in Rouen. He said two of the injured officers were in critical condition.
A flood of cocaine entering Europe each year has turbocharged organized crime across the continent, leading to ever more violent confrontations with police and deadly turf wars between gangs.
The Senate report said there had been a five-fold increase in French cocaine seizures over the last decade, and France’s drug trade had an annual turnover of 3.5 billion euros ($3.8 billion).
With the country at “a tipping point,” it recommended the creation of a French version of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a renewed focus on intelligence, money laundering and corruption. Marseille has been the epicentre of France’s gang violence, with a particularly violent war between trafficking gangs

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