France prison van attack: Huge manhunt after prison officers killed in ambush

Two French prison officers have been killed in an ambush on a prison van near Rouen in Normandy.

Prisoner Mohamed Amra - known as "The Fly" - was being taken from court to a prison when a car rammed the prison van at a toll booth.

Gunmen then opened fire at prison officers, with two officers killed and two critically injured.

Several hundred police officers and gendarmes have been deployed to carry out a manhunt.

French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on X that "everything is being done to find the perpetrators".

Prosecutors identified the inmate who was freed as Mohamed Amra, born in 1994.

Amra was convicted of burglary on 10 May and had been indicted by prosecutors in Marseille for a kidnapping that led to a death.

[AFP / Getty]

The 30-year-old inmate is said to have ties to a gang in the southern city of Marseille, which has been plagued by drug-related gang violence.

At the time of the ambush which led to his escape he was being transported back to jail in the town of Évreux after attending a morning court hearing in Rouen.

The ambush took place around 11:00 (09:00 GMT) near a toll booth on the A154 motorway.

The officers were shot with "heavy weapons" by the prisoner's accomplices, according to French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti.

The attackers escaped in a car which police believe they have now recovered, abandoned near the toll gate where the attack happened.

Roadblocks have been set up across north-west France, with police following up on every tip-off.

Speaking to the media following a crisis unit meeting, Mr Dupond-Moretti confirmed that two police officers had died.

"One leaves behind a wife and two children who were meant to celebrate their 21st birthday in two days. The other leaves a wife who is five months pregnant," he said.

"Everything - and I mean everything - will be put in place to find the perpetrators of this vile crime," Mr Dupond-Moretti said, adding that the perpetrators were "people for whom life has no value".

They would be found and punished "in a way that is proportionate to the crime", he said.