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France: Marseille rocked by deadly shootings in drug war between gangs

This picture shows a member of the French elite CRS 8 police unit. (File photo)

French Interior Minister Geral Darmanin has announced the deployment of a specialized police unit to put an end to the “bloodbath” between rivaling criminal gangs in the port city of Marseille.

The Republican Security Company CRS 8, also known as “fast downforce“,  will be deployed in the coming days, the Interior Minister announced on Friday on X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

CRS 8 will “carry out targeted operations against drug trafficking in the coming days“, he wrote on the social network.

The operation will reportedly take one week during which the special urban violence force will be targeting the criminals at their dealing points.

Darmanin’s announcement came as the settling of accounts, in connection with the control of drug trafficking, is increasing in Marseille. This month eight people have been shot dead.

Since the start of the year, 33 people have died in connection to drugs.

"Yoda" and "DZ Mafia" are the names of two violent criminal gangs vying for control of the drug market in the notorious northern neighborhoods of France's second-largest city after Paris.

"It's a bloodbath," is how Marseille's state prosecutor Dominique Laurens described the crime scene in the famous port city in southern France back in April .

He said "Yoda" and "DZ Mafia" criminal organizations were vying for control of the drug market in the notorious northern neighborhoods of France's second-biggest city.

In 2022, 31 gunshot deaths in total were linked by police to drug traffickers.

On Thursday, Bouches-du-Rhone Police Chief, Frédérique Camilleri, said during a press conference that the goal of the CRS 8’s deployment to Marseilles is to carry out new operations” and strengthen their “operation capability in cities“.

The representative of the police also announced the arrest of 17 people “owned by five killer commandos.”

CRS 8 police officers had already been dispatched to Marseille in February and April. It consists of two hundred experienced police officers divided into two groups of 100 and rotating to be available on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The specialty of the unit is said to be “intervening in acts of urban violence where the threat is particularly strong”.

Marseille has a long history of large-scale drug trafficking.

The city was part of the "French Connection", which was the world's largest network of heroin production and smuggling for many years.

The network was run by mafia groups with Corsican origins. They brought morphine from poppy plants grown in places like the Near East, Middle East and Asia to Marseille. There, they turned it into heroin and shipped it mostly to the United States.

The French Connection was finally broken up in the late 1970s.

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