France vows response as Marseille hit by wave of shootings

30th August 2012, Comments 0 comments

The French government rejected calls Thursday for the army to be sent in to crack down on drug dealers in Marseille, but promised a tough response to a wave of deadly shootings there.

The gritty Mediterranean port city, long known as a hotbed of crime, has been struck by a wave of shootings with assault rifles in turf wars over the lucrative illegal drug trade.

The latest shooting Wednesday night saw Walid Marzouki, a 25-year-old suspected trafficker, riddled with bullets in a car, bringing to 14 the number of people killed in drug-related shootings in the city this year.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's office said he would chair a meeting with senior ministers, including the interior, justice and finance ministers, next Thursday to tackle Marseille's problems.

A district mayor urged the government to take drastic steps, appealing for the army to be sent in, but the call was rejected quickly by senior officials.

"It no longer makes any difference to send in a police car to stop the dealers. When 10 of them are arrested, 10 others take up the torch. It's like fighting an anthill," said Samia Ghali, a senator and district mayor who represents two high-risk neighbourhoods.

"Faced with the weapons of war being used by these networks, only the army can intervene," she told local newspaper La Provence, adding that the army should set up barricades around neighbourhoods known as trafficking hubs.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said there was no question of calling in the military but vowed the police would take tough measures.

"It is out of the question for the army to respond to these tragedies and crimes. There is no internal enemy," Valls told journalists.

But he promised a "comprehensive, in-depth and particularly strong" response to the shootings.

© 2012 AFP

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