Marseille is no stranger to gangland violence, as the Mediterranean port city harbours a long history of organised crime. However, in recent years, the brutalist tower blocks in the northern suburbs of France’s second city have become the centre of a bloody all-out turf war between Kalashnikov-toting drug traffickers.
These blocks, built in the 1960s and 1970s to house refugees from the Algerian Civil War, have grown into “open-air prisons” where residents describe living in a constant state of fear, confined within their homes amid brutal murders and tit-for-tat executions.
Police authorities in the city appear unable to prevent the spiral of violence which has seen the main rival gangs DZ Mafia and Yoda swap murderous attacks on a near daily basis.
In total, the number of fatal shootings in Marseille so far this year stands at 22, already surpassing the total for the entire of 2022.
In the past two years, the interior ministry has sent more than 200 extra police officers to Marseille in an effort to quell the recurring violence and this month alone, 30 more cops were sent.
However, the killings continue unabatedly with residents feeling increasingly abandoned.
Marseille: Police respond to incident in French city
Katia Yakoubi a Marseille resident and president of the community action group Adelphi’cité told the Express Online: “Our northern neighbourhoods lack almost everything, our neighbourhoods have been abandoned by the Republic.
“The suburbs of France, just like the overseas territories, feel abandoned by the state and therefore by the Republic with its famous motto: ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’.
Ms Yakoubi added: “Today, any person can be affected by shootings at any time of the day. In the morning and in the evening.
“The inhabitants live in a state of fear, they lock themselves up in their homes, they live in an open-air prison.”
The situation has gotten worse because guns are reportedly so readily available.
Due to the increase in firearms as a result of the Ukraine crisis, the black market price of a Kalashnikov has dropped from €500 to €300.
Ms Yakoubi told Express Online: “Young people kill each other because there is a circulation of weapons. You can get a gun like crisps these days.”
The killings have even spawned a shocking social media trend where teenagers hired as contract killers by warring drug bosses brazenly broadcast their crimes on social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
Solaine Thornton, the 11-year-old British girl shot dead in north-western France on Monday, June 12, was being cradled in the arms of her mother when police arrived on the scene, it has been revealed.
The little girl was killed yesterday when their 71-year-old Dutch neighbour allegedly shot through a hedge with a Winchester 22 rifle on Sunday evening, in the hamlet of Saint-Herbot, in Brittany, after a long-running dispute boiled over into violence.
Her father, Adrian, is currently in a coma in hospital after being hit in the head, while her mother Rachel was also injured although now out of danger. Solaine’s eight-year-old sister Celeste, who raised the alarm, was uninjured but deeply traumatised.
Gang leaders have reportedly turned to younger assassins – branded ‘Kleenex killers’ – in response to the rising death toll.
In April, French police arrested an 18-year-old man who was only given the name Matteo F who had allegedly been hired to murder a gang’s three teenage rivals.
The victims ranged in age from 15 to 20 and the police estimate that Matteo got about €200,000 for the hit and other crimes. The force also allege he may have been involved in another six or seven murders in total.
A disturbing video initially shared on encrypted messaging platforms but later circulating on social media, features a masked Matteo gleefully exclaiming: “I’m going to rake in the contracts bro. I’m gonna take them down. On my mother’s life, I’m piling up the contracts. I’m having a laugh.”
Ms Yakoubi believes lower-level gang members under the control of crime bosses specifically target the most vulnerable young people to carry out the attacks.
She told Express Online: “Indeed, the puppets of the heads of the networks will go after the most vulnerable people. The call of money is not easy to respond to in a situation where precariousness prevails. These people are the youngest because they are the easiest to manipulate.”
Ms Yakoubi continued: “In any case, it’s run like a business. The big heads are therefore in Dubai or elsewhere, the little hands are the exploited of the system and often the first victims of assassinations while others gorge themselves on this dirty money.”
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega
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