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France launches major anti-drug crackdown in Marseille

March 19, 2024

President Emmanuel Macron has made a surprise visit to France's second city to launch a major anti-drug operation. The drive to tackle violent drug gangs comes as the city prepares to host Olympic events.

French President Emmanuel Macron was in Marseille as a major police operation got underway
French President Emmanuel Macron was in Marseille as a major police operation got underwayImage: Christophe Ena/AP/picture alliance

French authorities launched a large-scale operation against drug smuggling in the southern port city of Marseille on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced.

Macron made an unannounced trip to the city, which he said had been tormented over the past year by gang criminality that had left dozens dead. Marseille will also host several events as part of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games this summer.

"In Marseille and other cities in France, we have launched an unprecedented operation to put a stop to drug trafficking and ensure republican order," the president wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

France in 'battle' against drug dealers

Macron visited the neighborhood of La Castellane, one of the worst affected by the drug wars, where he told residents the operation would "try to destroy the networks and the traffickers."

He said 82 people had already been arrested. French news agency AFP reported that the operation, which will last three weeks, will involve 4,000 police officers.

"Drug trafficking is a growing scourge" and "the situation is very difficult" in Marseille and other cities, Macron said, adding France was in the throes of a "battle" against the dealers.

"Based on the in-depth work that has been carried out for years, we identified... the people who we know make life impossible for a neighborhood," he added. 

Rise in violence

Gangs control entire neighborhoods in Marseille, the country's second-largest city, and violence between different gangs has increased recently, with innocent bystanders sometimes getting caught in the crossfire.

Some 49 people were killed in the city in 2023. The suspected leader of one of the gangs was arrested earlier this month.

French President Emmanuel Macron gets a kiss from a resident as he makes a selfie during a visit focusing on security and the fight against drug trafficking
Many locals questioned Macron over the ongoing war in GazaImage: Christophe Ena/AP/picture alliance

ab/sms (AFP, dpa)