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Two prison officers who were killed in an attack on a police convoy in France have been named – as Interpol issued a red notice search warrant for escaped prisoner Mohamed Amra, nicknamed “The Fly”.

Dad-of-two Fabrice Moello, 52, and soon-to-be-father Arnaud Garcia, 34, were killed and three others seriously wounded when the convoy transporting Amra from court to jail was ambushed at a motorway tollbooth near Rouen in Normandy by gunmen wearing balaclavas.

Fabrice Moello and Arnaud Garcia
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Fabrice Moello and Arnaud Garcia

Amra – a suspected drug boss – is at the centre of the police manhunt for the perpetrators of the attack after escaping from the prison van during the assault.

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 the white prison van, with other video showing at least two armed men carrying rifles circling the car in flames on the A154 motorway.

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Who is escaped prisoner Mohamed Amra, nicknamed ‘The Fly’?

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.

Mohamed Amra
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Mohamed Amra

Mr Moello, a married father of twins, held the rank of captain and had joined the prison service in 1996, according to French media reports.

Mr Garcia was also married and had been a brigadier supervisor since November 2009.

His father told French radio network RTL his son loved his job as he called for a firm response from the government.

“My son was murdered! This ambush was worked on, prepared, premeditated,” said Dominique Garcia. “This act must not go unpunished.”

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told BFM TV: “Absolutely everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime.

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

He added two of the three injured officers are in a critical condition.

The attack has sparked a nationwide outcry – with a day of blockades dubbed “Dead Prisons Day” 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.

Footage shows a gunman at the scene. Pic: Snapchat/Yan78780
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CCTV footage showing a gunman at the scene. Pic: Snapchat/Yan78780

‘It was a massacre’

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 was also held across the French criminal justice system including prisons and courtrooms at 11am local time in addition to the symbolic 24-hour shutdown of jails.

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Outside Evreux jail a man lit candles for the guards killed and injured in the prison van ambush – and for his pal who was shot dead in a shooting he blamed on Amra.

He took seven tea lights from his pockets and laid them in a line beside the towering, metal jail doors, his hands shaking as he lit the wicks.

The man, who would not give his name, told Sky’s crime correspondent Martin Brunt: “I’ve come here because that man killed my friend and I’m here to honour the others he killed yesterday.”

He said his friend was one of two men killed in a car attacked by gunmen on an estate in Evreux last year, an attack he said was one of the various alleged crimes Amra was being question about.

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

‘Assassination attempt’

Police sources said fugitive gangster 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 criminal 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’?

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CCTV shows French prison van attack

Dangerous fugitive’s mum speaks

Amra’s mother told 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.

‘We’re on a path to Mexicanisation’

Right-wing politicians said the brazenness of the assault showed the government had lost its grip on drug crime, comparing France to countries with longstanding reputations for endemic gang violence.

“We’re on a path to Mexicanisation,” Bruno Retailleau, leader of the main centre-right opposition party in the French senate, said in a radio interview.

The attack came on the same day the senate released a report on drug trafficking, warning the country faced a “tipping point” from rising violence.

We must “catch the bastards who did this and put them out of harm’s way,” said French politician Adrien Quatennens on Sud Radio.

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President Raisi’s death a perilous moment for Iran regime – but don’t expect a change to foreign policy

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President Raisi's death a perilous moment for Iran regime - but don't expect a change to foreign policy

This is a delicate time for Iran. President Raisi was the second most important man in Iran, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His death, now confirmed, will have far-reaching consequences.

Although Khamenei has tried to reassure the country in recent hours, the regime will know this is a perilous moment that must be handled carefully.

Live updates – Iranian president killed in crash

There are mechanisms to protect the regime in events like this and the Revolutionary Guard, which was founded in 1979 precisely for that purpose, will be a major player in what comes next.

In the immediate term, vice-president Mohammed Mokhber will assume control and elections will be held within 50 days.

Mokhber isn’t as close to the supreme leader as Raisi was, and won’t enjoy his standing, but he has run much of Khamenei’s finances for years and is credited with helping Iran evade some of the many sanctions levied on it.

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Drone footage of helicopter crash site

Raisi’s successor will most likely be the chosen candidate of the supreme leader and certainly another ultra-conservative hardliner – a shift back to the moderates is highly unlikely.

Likewise, we shouldn’t expect any significant change in Iran’s foreign activities or involvement with the war in Gaza. It will be business as usual, as much as possible.

However, after years of anti-government demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022, this might be a moment for the protest movement to rise up and take to the streets again.

Read more:
Who was hardliner Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi?
‘Butcher of Tehran’ had fearsome reputation – many will fear instability
Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi wins landslide victory

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Islamic State may seek to take advantage

There are also many dissident groups inside Iran, including an off-shoot of Islamic State – they might seek to take advantage of this situation.

Raisi became president in 2021 at the second time of asking and only with a turnout of 41%, the lowest since the 1979 revolution.

The president is seen as a frontrunner to replace Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) when he dies. Pic: Reuters
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The president was considered one of the two frontrunners to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamanei (pictured). Pic: Reuters

He was not a universally popular figure and many inside Iran will celebrate his death.

Consequences for supreme leader

Longer term, Raisi’s death will have consequences for the supreme leader.

He was considered one of the two frontrunners to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamanei on his death – the other being Khamanei’s son Mojtaba.

For religious and conservative Iranians, Raisi’s death will be mourned; for many though, it will be the passing of a man who had blood on his hands.

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi confirmed dead in helicopter crash after charred wreckage found

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi confirmed dead in helicopter crash after charred wreckage found

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has died after the helicopter he was travelling in crashed in a mountainous area of northwest Iran.

Rescuers found the burned remains of the aircraft on Monday morning after the president and his foreign minister had been missing for more than 12 hours.

President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash,” a senior Iranian official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

Live updates – Iranian president killed in crash

Iran‘s Mehr news agency reported “all passengers of the helicopter carrying the Iranian president and foreign minister were martyred”.

State TV said images showed it had smashed into a mountain peak, although there was no official word on the cause of the crash.

“President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash… unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead,” an official told Reuters.

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President of Iran killed in crash

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The crash happened in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province

As the sun rose, rescuers saw the wreckage from around 1.25 miles, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state media.

Iranian news agency IRNA said the president was flying in an American-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Read more:
Who is Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi?
Many will be fearing instability after ‘butcher of Tehran’ killed

Iranian TV showed the president on board the helicopter
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Iranian TV showed the president on the helicopter during a trip to Azerbaijan

TV picture showed thick fog at the search site. Pic: IRNA
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TV pictures from Sunday showed thick fog at the search site. Pic: IRNA

Mr Raisi, 63, who was seen as a frontrunner to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran’s supreme leader, was travelling back from Azerbaijan where he had opened a dam with the country’s president.

Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, also died in the crash.

The governor of East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards were also said to have been on board when the helicopter crashed in fog on Sunday.

Iranian media initially described it as a “hard landing”.

The chief of staff of Iran’s army had ordered all military resources and the Revolutionary Guard to be deployed in the search, which had been hampered by bad weather.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to react to the news of Mr Raisi’s death.

“India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” he said in a post on X.

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Ebrahim Raisi: Who is hardliner Iranian president?

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Ebrahim Raisi: Who is hardliner Iranian president?

A helicopter carrying Iran’s president crashed during bad weather on Sunday.

But who is Ebrahim Raisi – a leader who faces sanctions from the US and other nations over his involvement in the mass execution of prisoners in 1988.

The president, 63, who was travelling alongside the foreign minister and two other key Iranian figures when their helicopter crashed, had been travelling across the far northwest of Iran following a visit to Azerbaijan.

Follow live: Rescuers search for president after helicopter crash

Mr Raisi is a hardliner and former head of the judiciary who some have suggested could one day replace Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Because of his part in the sentencing of thousands of prisoners of conscience to death back in the 1980s, he was nicknamed the Butcher of Tehran as he sat on the so-called Death Panel, for which he was then sanctioned by the US.

Raisi and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday. Pic: Reuters
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Raisi and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev on Sunday. Pic: Reuters

Both a revered and a controversial figure, Mr Raisi supported the country’s security services as they cracked down on all dissent, including in the aftermath of the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini – the woman who died after she was arrested for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly – and the nationwide protests that followed.

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The months-long security crackdown killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained.

People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran, 2022. Pic: Reuters
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People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran, 2022. Pic: Reuters

In March, a United Nations investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Ms Amini’s death after her arrest for not wearing a hijab, or headscarf, to the liking of authorities.

The president is seen as a frontrunner to replace Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) when he dies. Pic: Reuters
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The president is seen as a frontrunner to replace Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured). Pic: Reuters

The president also supported Iran’s unprecedented decision in April to launch a drone and missile attack on Israel amid its war with Hamas, the ruling militant group in Gaza responsible for the 7 October attacks which saw 1,200 people killed in southern Israel.

Involvement in mass executions

Mr Raisi is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 at the end of the bloody Iran-Iraq war.

Under the president, Iran now enriches uranium at nearly weapons-grade levels and hampers international inspections.

Iran has armed Russia in its war on Ukraine and has continued arming proxy groups in the Middle East, such as Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

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He successfully ran for the presidency back in August 2021 in a vote that got the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history as all of his potentially prominent opponents were barred from running under Iran’s vetting system.

A presidency run in 2017 saw him lose to Hassan Rouhani, the relatively moderate cleric who as president reached Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

‘Very involved in anything’

Alistair Bunkall, Sky News’s Middle East correspondent, said the president is “a major figure in Iranian political and religious society” but “he’s not universally popular by any means” as his administration has seen a series of protests in the past few years against his and the government’s “hardline attitude”.

Mr Raisi is nonetheless “considered one of the two frontrunners to potentially take over” the Iranian regime when the current supreme leader dies, Bunkall said.

He added the president would have been “instrumental” in many of Iran’s activities in the region as he “would’ve been very involved in anything particularly what has been happening in Israel and the surrounding areas like Lebanon and Gaza and the Houthis over the last seven and a bit months”.

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