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No soldiers on Marseille streets

Hollande and Valls say that troops are not the answer to drug gang war in France's second city

CALLS for the army to be brought in to calm the violence on the streets of Marseille after the latest killing have been slapped down by both Interior Minister Manuel Valls and President Hollande.

After four years of drug gang violence and 14 killings in the past eight months alone, Socialist senator and mayor of two distrcits Samia Ghali had called on the government to send in troops to halt the tit-for-tat shootings.

The latest saw a 25-year-old suspected drug trafficker gunned down in a hail of Kalashnikov bullets in Marseille Nord, the second in a month.

Ghali said that "with weapons of war being used by these gangs, only the army can intervene. To disarm the dealers first and then to halt clents' access to these districts with roadblocks."

But both Valls and Hollande said troops were not the answer. Valls said: "The army has no place in these districts. It is out of the question for the army to respond to these tragedies and crimes. There is no enemy inside."

Hollande said: "Marseille is a government priority but it is for the police and the courts to fight against crime."

Right-wing mayor of Marseille Jean-Claude Gaudin attacked Ghali's outburst saying the city "needs police reinforcements, not a call for a civil war".

With a vast increase in drug trafficking and other crime the head of Marseille police judiciaire said at the end of 2010 they were 100 times busier than before and President Sarkozy's then Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux replied by sending in 150 extra police. Last year his successor Claude Gueant announced an extra 166 police.

Now Valls has included five northern Marseille districts in one of the first high-security ZSP zones which will get extra police help to halt crime.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault is to lead a ministerial meeting in Marseille, France's second-largest city, on September 6 to plan action to help the city.
Photo: Ville de Marseille

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