Manhunt for prisoner ‘The Fly’ freed in ambush enters day two as tributes paid to victims and guards erupt into protest

15 May 2024, 08:46 | Updated: 15 May 2024, 08:50

Mohamed Amra, known as The Fly, was freed in the deadly police van ambush.
Mohamed Amra, known as The Fly, was freed in the deadly police van ambush. Picture: Alamy/X/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

The manhunt for a prisoner gang boss dubbed ‘The Fly’ has entered its second day as tributes pour in for two French police officers killed in an ambush on a police van.

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Two prison officers were killed and three injured after a van transporting Mohamed Amra, known as The Fly, from court back to jail was attacked by four armed men.

The two victims have now been named in France as father-of-two Fabrice Moello, 52, and Arnaud Garcia, 35, whose wife was five months pregnant.

Paying tribute to the victims, Mr Garcia has been described as “an extremely kind guy” and “a very good professional who was always attentive to others”.

Meanwhile, Mr Moello has been described as a “discreet” man who was also “very sporty” by reputation, Le Parisien reported.

It comes as a day of blockades, labelled “dead prisons day”, was announced across jails in France on Wednesday as prison officer unions respond in anger to Tuesday’s attack.

Protests outside of prisons across the country have been reported, including in Paris, Rouen, Nice, Grasse, Draguignan and Amiens.

A minute's silence is also planned across the French criminal justice system, including prisons and courtrooms.

One prison guard told a local media outlet that Tuesday’s attack “could have been avoided”, as they participated in the blockade outside a prison in Paris.

Meanwhile, another photo taken in Draguignan shows a pile of objects set alight in the road outside a remand centre.

French President Emmanuel Macron released a statement on Tuesday evening, saying "everything is being done to find the perpetrators".

Hundreds of French police officers and gendarmes have been deployed to find Amra.

Mohamed Amra
Mohamed Amra. Picture: Getty
Two French prison officers were killed and two others wounded
Two French prison officers were killed and two others wounded. Picture: Getty

The attack came as a van moved prisoners between Rouen and Evreux in Normandy, northern France, and was targetted at the Inarville toll on the A154 motorway in Val-de-Reuil at around 11am.

A manhunt for 'The Fly' has now been launched as police investigate the armed assault and killings.

Mohamed Amra 30, is convicted of burglary and theft and accused of attempted murder. He is also known to police as ‘the head of a narcotics network’, Le Parisien reported.

Amra attempted to saw the bars off his call and escape prison just two days ago, the paper reported, citing a prison source. He had since been placed in a disciplinary unit with his surveillance level raised.

Mohammed Amra, nicknamed 'La Mouche' (The Fly)
Mohammed Amra, nicknamed 'La Mouche' (The Fly). Picture: Mugshot

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“Three prison officers were killed by pump-action rifle fire when a van carrying a prisoner was attacked at around 11am with a ram car at the Incarville toll plaza in the Eure department,” a source told the AFP news agency.

Four armed men in two vehicles targetted the prison van, it said.

Details for the transport route and timings for moving prisoners are usually kept secret.

Footage showed the armed men, hooded and clad in black, surrounding several police vans at the toll booth. One of the vans appeared to have collided with another car.

An officer was also seen tending to his colleague lying on the floor and surrounded in blood.

Following the attack one of the attackers' vehicles - identified as a white Audi A5 - was found burnt in nearby Watteville. The other vehicle, a BMW 5 series, fled the scene in the direction of Louviers and Evreux, Le Figaro reported.

French justice minister Eric Dupond-Moretti wrote on X: "A prison convoy was attacked in Eure. Two of our prison officers have died, three are seriously injured.

"All my thoughts are with the victims, their families and their colleagues."

A witness on a bus at the toll booth when the attack took place told Le Parisien: “I still had my headphones in my ears, and suddenly I see that everyone is ducking down on the bus and everyone is going to the back.”

“I took off my headphones and I heard lots of gunshots, big booms too.”

She said “everyone was very scared” but said police arrived on the scene very quickly.

Forensic teams work as police officers patrol the site of the attack in the Eure region of northern France, Tuesday
Forensic teams work as police officers patrol the site of the attack in the Eure region of northern France, Tuesday. Picture: Getty

Axel Ronde, spokesman for the French police union CFTC, also posted online: “Gunmen set an ambush against a prison convoy at Incarville.

“One of the perpetrators was reportedly injured by return fire.

“Support for all prison administration brothers in the face of this killing!"

French President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement following the attack: "This morning's attack, which cost the lives of prison officers, is a shock to us all.

"The Nation stands alongside the families, the injured and their colleagues.

"Everything is being done to find the perpetrators of this crime so that justice can be done in the name of the French people. We will be intractable."

Some 200 gendarmes were dispatched on Tuesday as other emergency services, including a fire engine, were seen deployed to the scene.

The A154 motorway has been closed around Évreux-Louviers at junction 4 for an “indefinite period”, French media reported, as police continue to investigate the attack.