Police in the southern French city of Marseille say a group of up to ten gunmen have fired automatic weapons at the edge of a housing project the same day as a planned visit by the prime minister.
No injuries were immediately reported, but shots only “narrowly” missed police officers. Although Sky News have reported the shootings may be gang-related, the timing of the incident, coming on the same day as the visit of the French prime minister to the city suggests there may be a political motive.
It is reported the head of police in Marseilles was the target of the attack. He was due to meet with French prime minister Manuel Valls, who ironically was visiting the city today to congratulate the chief and local government leaders on making “excellent” progress on fighting crime.
A police official, who could not be named because she was not authorized to speak publicly about Monday’s shooting, said riot police have blocked off the Castellane housing project in northern Marseille.
The estate, which is notorious for its violent crime and drugs problems is one of France’s 750 infamous ‘no go zones’, more formally known as a Zone of Urban Sensitivity (ZUS). These areas have been the focus of intense media scrutiny since the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket killings in Paris last month, as it is reported these often urban districts are places the police dare not tread.
This latest attack comes less than a week after a Muslim attacked three soldiers protecting a Synagogue, badly injuring two, and three weeks after French police ordered tens of thousands of new sets of body armour and fire-arms in anticipation of growing violence and terror attacks.
Samia Ghali, a senator from the region, told iTele that she spoke with the police director and was told that the gunmen were targeting police and also firing at random.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was due in Marseille, France’s second-largest city, on Monday to talk about security and education.
The Associated Press Contributed to This Report