Police launch first raids in drug crackdown – DW – 03/25/2024

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Police in France launched several large-scale operations against drug gangs on Monday, a week after President Emmanuel Macron launched a similar crack-down in the southern city of Marseille.

The operation, dubbed “Place nette XXL” or “XXL clean-up,” is targeting narcotics gangs in four further major urban centers: the Lille-Roubaix conglomeration in the north, Lyon in the south-east, Dijon in the east and in Paris – four months ahead of the Olympic Games in the capital.

“We have launched this unprecedented operation to strike a final blow to drug trafficking and enforce republican order,” President Macron said last week in Marseille.

Interior Minister lauds early arrests 

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said “more than 187” arrests were made in the early hours of Monday morning.

A police officer with his specialized dog patrols in downtown Marseille, southern France, on March 21, 2024, two days after the visit of French President, focused on security and drug trafficking.
This officer in Marseille was on partrol with a trained dogImage: Nicolas Tuctat/AFP

The goal, he said, was to “dismantle dealing operations in their entirety,” starting with those at the top of the criminal networks.

“This collective effort is aimed at demonstrating to all citizens, and especially the residents of working-class estates, that this security is for them,” he continued. “We’re aiming to arrest 850 people and, if we count Marseille, we’re already a quarter of the way there.”

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Last week’s pilot operation in Marseille saw some 900 police and customs officers mobilized across the port city and the surrounding region of Bouches-du-Rhône, seizing 22 kilograms of narcotics, €385,000 in cash and four firearms in the first three days, plus making 71 arrests.

Among them was Felix Bingui, codenamed le chat (the cat), the suspected leader of the notorious Yoda clan, who was arrested in Morocco.

Members of the Raid, the special unit of the French police, stand guard as France's Minister for Interior and Overseas Gerald Darmanin speaks with police officers after an "XXL cleanup operation" on French drug gangs on March 25, 2024 in Roubaix.
Members of France’s elite police unit, known as Raid, were also on hand as Darmanin briefed reportersImage: Denis Charlet/AFP

‘We tackle this octopus not by cutting off tentacles but aiming for the head’

Marseille, France’s second-largest city, has become a hot-spot of drug-related gang violence in recent years, with 49 fatalities recorded in 2023 alone, four of whom were innocent victims.

“I fear that we are losing the war against the drug traffickers in Marseille,” said Isabelle Couderc, examining magistrate in charge of organized crime in the city, earlier this month.

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“Either we abandon our anti-drug work and become like the Netherlands, Belgium, parts of Spain or some countries in South America, in the hands of the drug traffickers,” declared Darmanin, “or we tackle this octopus not by cutting off tentacles but aiming for the head.”

mf/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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