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Inmate sprung from French prison van during ambush in which 2 guards killed

French authorities launched a manhunt on Tuesday after gunmen ambushed a prison convoy in Normandy to break out an inmate, killing two guards and wounding three others.

The violent incident, extremely rare for that part of northern France, took place as the vehicle was transporting a prisoner from court to a nearby prison, French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said.

Dupond-Moretti told reporters that the incident was the first time a French prison employee had died while working since 1992. He added that one of the guards leaves behind a wife and two children, and the other a spouse who was five months’ pregnant. Dupond-Moretti added that two of those hurt sustained life-threatening injuries.

The gunmen are still at large, national police said on X.

“Everything, and I mean everything, will be done to find the perpetrators of this heinous crime. These are people for whom life means nothing. They will be arrested. They will be tried. And they will be punished for the crime they committed,” Dupond-Moretti said.

A manhunt is underway to find suspects who carried out the prison break and the inmate, a 30-year-old who had been convicted of burglary and is being investigated for a kidnapping related to death, according to the French national prosecutor in charge of organized crime, which has already opened an investigation into the incident.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on X he has mobilized the national gendarmerie and “several hundred” police officers for the manhunt. Authorities on the scene are setting up roadblocks and establishing a perimeter, BFMTV reported.

Vehicles found

On Tuesday evening local time, French police said they had discovered two burnt out vehicles used by the attackers.

Paris state prosecutor Laure Beccuau told a press conference that the two vehicles were found in Houtteville and in Gauville-le-Campagne, two towns in the département of Eure where the attack took place near the Incarville tollbooth shortly before 11am local time (5aET).

One of the vehicles, a Peugeot, had been used to ram the police van during the attack, Becuau said. The other vehicle, an Audi, had been following the van and carried the two gunmen.

Forensic experts have been carrying out “meticulous tests” at the scene of the crime, and police had been studying video of the attack filmed by eyewitnesses and posted on social media, Beccuau told the press conference.

The prosecutor also revealed more details about the escaped inmate, identifying him as Mohamed Amra, and saying he is “very well known to the justice system,” having sustained a total 13 convictions.

Most of those convictions related to incidences of theft with aggravated offences, Beccuau said, adding that Amra had been incarcerated in various facilities since January 2022.

A minimum of three police officers had been decided as the security level for the escort several weeks ago, Beccuau told journalists. In the end, five officers were involved in the escort.

A 52-year-old officer and 34-year-old officer were both killed during the attack whilst their colleagues, a 48-year-old, a 52-year-old and a 55-year-old were all injured, she said.

On May 10, Amra was found guilty on the charge of burglary by a court in Évreux and was also under investigation in Marseille for a kidnap which led to a death, Beccuau said.

The prosecutor said the authorities’ priority now is getting to the bottom of this “outburst of violence.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said on X that “every effort is being made to find the perpetrators of this crime so that justice can be done in the name of the French people.”

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