France prisoner escape: Day of blockades in French prisons as inmate called ‘The Fly’ on the run

France prisoner escape: Day of blockades in French prisons as inmate called 'The Fly' on the run

A suspected drug boss nicknamed “The Fly” is at the centre of police manhunt after escaping from a prison van in France.

Two prison officers were killed and three others seriously wounded when a convoy transporting prisoner Mohamed Amra from court to jail was ambushed at a motorway tollbooth near Rouen in Normandy by gunmen wearing balaclavas.

Mohamed Amra

Several hundred police officers have been deployed nationwide to find the 30-year-old convict and gunmen. It is unclear how many assailants were involved.

CCTV footage showed a black Peugeot SUV driving into the front of a white van, with other video showing at least two armed men carrying rifles circling the car in flames on the A154 motorway.

French media reports suggested a second car used during the attack was a Sedan – stolen in the town of Pontault-Combault in northern France – which had been following the convoy and together with the SUV trapped the prison van.

The two cars were later found torched a few miles away.

A day of blockades dubbed “Dead Prisons Day” has been announced in jails across France today as prison officer unions respond in anger to Tuesday’s attack.

Local media on Wednesday reported demonstrations outside of prisons across the country – including in the French capital Paris, Rouen, Nice, Grasse, Draguignan and Amiens.

A fire burns as prison staff block the entrance of a detention centre  in Val De Reuil, France. Pic: Reuters
Wooden pallets are set on fire as prison staff block the entrance of a detention centre in Val De Reuil, France. Pic: Reuters

In Yvelines 130 people blocked a remand centre and set fire to wooden pallets, Le Parisien reported.

Inside, around 15 prison staff went about their everyday jobs – compared with the 40 usually onsite.

In addition, the day’s prisoner transportations and visits were cancelled, according to the newspaper.

Hubert Gratraud, a union representative, said: “There is an awareness of the dangerousness.

“We need resources and training. We need to get as close as possible to the reality on the ground: anything can happen.”

“People were shot at point-blank range, it was a massacre, a butchery,” said Ronan Roudaut, another union official.

A minute’s silence is also planned across the French criminal justice system including prisons and courtrooms at 11am.

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‘Assassination attempt’

Police sources said Amra was involved in international drug dealing, a suspect in a kidnap and murder case in Marseille, and had ties to the city’s powerful “Blacks” gang.

He had recently been sentenced to 18 months for burglary in the suburbs of Evreux, northwest France, reported BFM TV.

The French broadcaster said his nickname was La Mouche – or “The Fly” in English.

A prison source told Le Parisien that Amra tried to saw the bars off his cell a few days ago – with the convict reportedly put in solitary confinement afterwards.

The publication said he is suspected of having ordered an assassination attempt, linked to drugs, targeting a Frenchman in Spain in the summer of 2023.

It added Amra, born in Rouen in northern France, was also re-evaluated as ‘Escort 3’ risk category, making more guards necessary during transportation.

Read more: Who is ‘The Fly’?

Dangerous fugitive’s mum speaks

His mother told French radio network RTL she had no idea her son had planned an escape.

“I went to Baumettes to see him, he was in solitary confinement, I went to [the prison of] Evreux once. He spoke normally, he didn’t show me anything. I don’t understand,” she said.

“They carry him around from right to left, they put him in solitary confinement instead of judging him once and for all.”

She said she “broke down” and “cried” when she found out what had happened.

“It makes me sick. How can lives be taken like that?” she said of the two fatalities.

“I don’t know what’s going on in his head, he’s not talking to me. He’s my son and he doesn’t talk to me about anything,” she added.

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said one of the officers, aged 34, leaves behind a pregnant wife, while the other, aged 52, was a father-of-two.

“Absolutely everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime,” he told BFM TV.

“These are people for whom life means nothing. They will be arrested, judged and punished according to the crime they committed.”