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France pays tribute to prison officers, attackers still at large

Premier minister Gabriel Attal hailed the courage of the prison officers
Premier minister Gabriel Attal hailed the courage of the prison officers - Copyright AFP/File -
Premier minister Gabriel Attal hailed the courage of the prison officers - Copyright AFP/File -

France’s prime minister on Wednesday hosted a national tribute to two prison officers killed in an attack by gunmen when they freed a convict.

The attackers and the prisoner they freed are still on the run a week after the May 14 attack in northern France, despite being labelled “public enemy number one” by the government and the deployment of hundreds of police.

“Three minutes was how long this attack lasted. Three minutes — yet it was an eternity,” said Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, facing the two coffins of Fabrice Moello, 52, and Arnaud Garcia, 34, each draped with the French flag.

“Their death will not go unpunished. The investigation is progressing, it will continue as long as necessary but it will be successful,” said the prime minister.

He added the two men had been posthumously decorated with the Legion d’honneur, France’s highest award, which was placed on their coffins at the ceremony in the Normandy city of Caen.

President Emmanuel Macron also paid tribute to Garcia, who had worked in the prison service for 15 years and Moello, who had 29 years’ experience. 

“They went ahead with their mission, despite the risks, because they had decided to serve justice. We will ensure justice on their behalf,” Macron, who had been due to attend the ceremony but at the last minute flew to France’s Pacific territory of New Caledonia, wrote on X.

His wife Brigitte did, however, attend the tribute ceremony.

The officers guarding Mohamed Amra, 30, a convict known as “La Mouche” (The Fly) and linked to drug gangland killings, were armed with pistols while the assailants attacked with military-grade assault weapons.

The prison officers who died were the first to be killed in the line of duty since 1992.

The gunmen behind the attack have not been named but apprehending the fugitives is a major priority for the government as it seeks to show it is serious about public order ahead of European elections in June.

So far no trace of them has been made public, with the issuing of the Interpol red notice — a request to security forces worldwide to apprehend Amra — seen as acknowledgement they may have slipped out of France.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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