Elite police sent to Marseille amid deadly gang war that’s being played out on social media

The French government is deploying an elite police unit to Marseille to tackle a deadly drugs-related crimewave that has already seen a dozen people killed since mid-July. 

The CRS 8 police unit, which specialises in combating urban violence, will be deployed for over a week to carry out targeted operations against drug crime syndicates.

The elite police had already been sent to the southern city in February to combat drug trafficking.

A dozen killed in a bloody gang war

Since mid-July, 12 people have died as part of an ongoing war between two powerful networks known as ‘DZ Mafia’ and ‘Yoda’. Since the beginning of the year, their fight has been responsible for 80% of homicides or attempted homicides by organised gangs in Marseille, according to Frédérique Camilleri, the Prefect of Police of Marseille.

But it is the new way this vicious gang war is being played out that has Camilleri particularly concerned. “We are entering a new world of drug-related violence, with murders being staged on social networks,” she explained.

In February, a 17-year-old teenager died after being lynched by around 30 people in the Paternelle housing estate. The attack was filmed and broadcast live on Snapchat.

Teenage recruits

Authorities say that gang members and victims are getting younger. In early April, an 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of shooting dead two teenagers aged 15 and 16.

Meanwhile, the proportion of victims aged between 14 and 21 is increasing, with 14% aged between 14 and 17, and 27% between 18- and 21-years-old.

Since the start of the year, 36 people have died in Marseille as a result of drug trafficking.

The Marseille public prosecutor’s office says that each day in the city, a minor is brought before a juvenile judge or the juvenile court for drug-related offences.

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Photo credit: Olivia Chaber, Unsplash