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'The Fly': Convict freed in French ambush had history of violent crime

By AFP

May 15, 2024 10:04 PM


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Mohamed Amra, the convict freed by gunmen in a deadly motorway attack Tuesday, has a long history of convictions for violent crimes that started when he was only 15, according to judicial sources.

The 30-year-old inmate from Rouen in northwestern France, reportedly known as "La Mouche" (The Fly), was still on the run Wednesday, a day after alleged accomplices killed two prison officers at a toll station and fled the scene with him.

Three other prison guards were injured in the attack, with one fighting for his life.

"He is very well-known to the judiciary," Paris chief prosecutor Laure Beccuau told reporters.

Amra has close links to organised crime, said another source close to the case who asked not to be identified, and is suspected of ordering killings linked to the drugs trade.

Another source who asked not to be named said Amra runs his own drug trafficking network.

However, none of his 13 prior convictions -- for crimes ranging from armed robbery to extortion -- were directly related to the narcotics business, said Beccuau, who is leading the investigation into the motorway attack.

He was jailed in January 2022 in Evreux prison in the northwestern Normandy region to serve several sentences, including for criminal conspiracy, extortion, robbery, armed violence and participation in an illegal motor rodeo.

The latest conviction, for robbery, was handed down only last week.

At the time of his escape he was also facing two fresh charges, one for attempted murder and another for participation in a gangland killing in the southern city of Marseille on the French riviera, a hub for drug trafficking and gang violence.

  'Hard to imagine' 

 Global police body Interpol said a red notice had been issued "at the request of French authorities for escaped prisoner Mohamed Amra, alias 'The Fly'."

A red notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and arrest a wanted individual. It is not an arrest warrant.

In its alert, Interpol said Amra is up to 1.8 metres (5.9 feet) tall with wavy hair and a beard.

His lawyer, Hugues Vigier, told the BFMTV broadcaster that he was "dumbfounded" by Tuesday's events, adding he found it "hard to imagine" that his client could be implicated in "such indiscriminate, dramatic, insane, inexcusable violence".

The motorway attack did not match his impression of his client, said the lawyer, who has experience in organised crime cases.

"If he is implicated, then I will have been wrong about how he functions and what he is capable of," he added.

There was, the lawyer suggested, "another possible explanation" for the attack, a scenario in which Amra was kidnapped by the gunmen who came "not to free him but to hold him and make him pay for what they think he did".

The 20 Minutes newspaper quoted an unnamed police source as saying that while Amra's position in the Marseille underworld would have allowed him to give orders "we did not think him capable of such a high-level operation".

Amra had been ordered to attend a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday after guards discovered that the bars in his prison cell had been partly cut, prosecutor Beccuau said.

French media reported that he had been placed in solitary confinement after the presumed breakout attempt, which was too recent to have triggered additional security measures.

The officers guarding Amra were armed with pistols while the assailants attacked with military-grade assault weapons.


AFP


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