World

Massive search in France for prison-break gang that shot 2 officers dead

PARIS — (AP) — A massive search was underway in France on Wednesday for armed assailants who ambushed a prison convoy, killing two prison officers, seriously injuring three others and freeing the inmate they were escorting. The prime minister vowed the gang would be caught, saying, “They will pay.”

“We are tracking you, we will find you and we will punish you,” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said in parliament, to applause from lawmakers.

The escaped convict, Mohamed Amra, 30, has a long criminal record, with at least 13 convictions for robbery and other crimes, the first when he was 15, prosecutors said.

International policing agency Interpol issued a Red Notice to find Amra. The notice flags people deemed fugitives to law enforcement worldwide and is one of Interpol’s most important tools.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said “unprecedented” efforts were being deployed. Hundreds of officers were mobilized in the search for Amra and the assailants who rammed a car head-on into the prison van transporting him and opened fire on Tuesday.

The violence shocked France. Prison workers held moments of silence to commemorate the officers killed.

“I haven’t closed my eyes all night. I cried so much that I have no more tears left in my body," the father of 34-year-old slain officer Arnaud Garcia, Dominique Garcia, told BFM-TV.

Darmanin, speaking on RTL radio, said 450 officers had been deployed in the region in Normandy in northern France to search for the assailants.

“The means employed are considerable,” he said. “We are progressing a lot.”

The attack appeared to have been carefully prepared. The convoy was transporting Amra back to jail in the Normandy town of Évreux after a hearing with an investigator in Rouen when it was ambushed at a toll booth on the A154 freeway.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said the car had been stolen and had gone through the toll booth a few minutes ahead of the prison convoy and then waited.

Another car followed behind the convoy, seemingly boxing it in. Assailants sprang from the cars and opened fire, Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau said. Two burned cars were found.

The other officer killed was a 52-year-old captain in the prison service, Beccuau said.

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Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed.

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