Two killed as prison van ambushed on French motorway, inmate on run

200 gendarmes have been mobilised to search for the prisoner who is reported to be the head of drug smuggling network and accused of attempted murder

The map shows where the incident took place. The inset photo is a screenshot from a social media video, showing gunmen along the A154 motorway

At least two prison officers have been killed and three others seriously injured during an ambush on a prison van carrying an inmate at a motorway toll booth in Normandy.

The van was being used to transport an inmate from a prison in Normandy to a different location, when it was attacked at 11:00 French time. 

Attackers allegedly used two vehicles in the ambush, pulling up on both sides of the van at the Incarville tollbooth (péage) on the A154 motorway in Eure, near the city of Rouen.

Several people got out of the vehicles and opened fire with automatic weapons, helping the inmate inside escape into one of the vehicles. This vehicle was later found engulfed in flames a few kilometres from the incident.

The seriously injured officers were transported to hospital in Évreux where they are currently receiving care, with one in critical condition. 

France's Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti announced in a press conference that the wife of one of the officers killed is five months pregnant. The other had two children.

The motorway is temporarily closed in both directions. 

President Emmanuel Macron posted on X (formerly Twitter) about the attack, saying “everything would be done to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.”

A minute's silence for the killed officers was held in the National Assembly at 15:00.

What is the ‘Plan Épervier’ activated to capture attackers?

A national crisis meeting was called by Mr Dupond-Moretti after the attack.

He said the attackers were "people for whom life has no value," and they would face justice "in a way that is proportionate to the crime."

Interior Minister Gérard Darminan said he had enacted the Épervier (sparrowhawk) plan in the Eure department.

This plan mobilises gendarmes and other police officers within a designated area to immediately help with a national crisis. It was raised during the hunt for the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015.

There are at least 200 gendarmeries currently hunting for the escaped inmate, and helicopters have also been deployed.

Members of the highly specialised national police unit GIGN (Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale) have also been mobilised.

Prisoner allegedly head of narcotics network 

A video is being widely shared on social media showing armed gunmen on the motorway, as well as a burning car that had crashed into a police van. 

French media have not confirmed the video, but you can see it below. The video does not show anybody who is injured, but does show gunmen firing at a vehicle.

One eyewitness who works close to the tollbooth said she heard "around 30 shots," which she originally believed were firecrackers going off. 

"You think this kind of thing only happens in films, but that is not the case," she added.

France’s public service broadcaster France Info named the escaped inmate as 30-year-old Mohamed Amra. 

Nicknamed ‘The Fly’, he was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison at a hearing in Évreux (Eure) for aggravated theft.

However, he had been implicated in other cases across France, including for kidnapping and attempted murder.

He is also allegedly the head of a drug smuggling ring in France. 

The inmate was also on a list of highly dangerous detainees due to the nature of his previous court cases.