Two ‘dangerous’ inmates blast out of French prison

16th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Two prisoners who had records for armed robbery used explosives to blast their way out of Moulins prison in central France.

MOULINS – Two prisoners, described as armed and dangerous, used explosives to blast their way out of a prison in central France on Sunday, briefly taking two guards hostage, local officials said.

The pair broke out of Moulins prison in the central French region of Allier at around 4:30 pm (1530 GMT), Jean-Pierre Maurice, the deputy regional governor of the region, told AFP.

They made their escape in a car but later released their hostages further north near Paris, said a spokesman for France's gendarmerie, the paramilitary police. Both men were well, said a prison services spokesman.

One source inside the prison said both men had records for armed robbery.

One of them was Christophe Khider, 37, who had been serving a life sentence since 1999 for an armed robbery in which a hostage was killed, said the source. In 2007, he received a further 15 years for an attempt to break out of another prison.

The second was El Hadj Top, 28, who would not have come up for parole until 2020.

"They blew out a door. Then they got the entrance door open by taking the two hostages," said a member of the local gendarmerie.

The two men were in the prison courtyard during visiting time, said Younes Mellakh, an official with one of the French prison workers unions, the UFAP.

They used weapons to take the guards hostage and blew out the doors of the courtyard with explosives that they had on them, he said.

One police source told AFP the men were armed with at least one handgun.

The pair escaped their pursuers after a car chase which provoked at least one road accident.

France's elite GIPN police unit had been mobilised to recapture them, while the paramilitary gendarme force set up road blocks and deployed two helicopters in an effort to find the prisoners.

Police have opened an investigation into how the prisoners were able to make their escape.

The last attempt to escape from Moulins prison dates back to 2003. The last successful bid was in 2000, when a helicopter was used in the escape.

France has a long history of spectacular jail breaks.

Sometimes they have involved weapons or explosives smuggled into the prison, as appears to have been the case in this escape.

There have also been a number of escapes involving helicopters and at least one armed assault on a prison.

In 2001 three convicted bank robbers escaped the prison at Borgo, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, thanks to false release documents that had been sent through by fax.

In 1973, bank robber Jacques Mesrin, once known as France's most wanted man, escaped from a court by taking the judge hostage.

Five years later, he and an accomplice escaped from Paris's La Sante prison dressed as prison guards.

[AFP / Expatica]

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