Violent crime hits France as Macron presents urban poverty plan

The incidents come as President Emmanuel Macron prepares to unveil a strategy for tackling social problems which are concentrated in many ghettoised areas of France's towns and cities. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS (AFP) - Shocking images of masked gunmen opening fire in Marseille and a brutal daylight murder underlined the problem of urban violence in France on Tuesday (May 22) as President Emmanuel Macron announces a strategy to tackle the issue.

One person was injured on Monday when black-clad men carrying Kalashnikov machine guns opened fire in a notorious area known for drug-dealing in Marseille at around 5pm local time (11pm Singapore time).

Footage of the incident in the crime-ridden Busserine public housing estate, which was broadcast on French television, showed a carload of men dressed like commandoes openly brandishing their weapons.

"According to a witness, one person was kidnapped and put in a car by people who fired in the air several times," Marseille prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux told reporters.

The brazen display of muscle was thought to be linked to a local turf war for control of the drug trade in the sprawling industrial city, where tit-for-tat murders between rival gangs are common.

Elsewhere in France, police in the southern city of Pau are still investigating the murder of a 32-year-old man in another poverty-ridden, high-immigration area, who was beaten to death by a gang of teenagers.

Terrified witnesses, some of them picnicking with children early last Friday evening, have helped identify three suspects who are thought to have taken part in what Le Parisien newspaper described as a "horrifying lynching".

The incidents came as Mr Macron prepares to unveil a long-awaited strategy for tackling the entrenched social problems which are concentrated in many ghettoised areas of the country's towns and cities.

The 40-year-old leader has faced criticism from many associations and leftist lawmakers for failing to put the problems of the poorest areas of France at the heart of his agenda since his election in May 2017.

A host of local officials from such areas, where immigrants have concentrated over decades, have warned about the problems of crime, poverty and Islamism blighting the lives of local families.

Many of the militants inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria that have struck France since 2015 have hailed from marginalised, often high-rise areas known as "les banlieues" where public housing is concentrated.

Presidential aides have said that Mr Macron will avoid announcing a new strategy based on huge increases in public spending.

"The aim is not to reinvent grand projects" that are top-down, an aide told reporters last week.

Mr Macron is likely instead to insist on his government's record of investing in schools in poor areas, creating a new community police service for crime-hit zones, and economic reforms which he believes will generate more jobs.

He is also expected to back new efforts to tackle discrimination that sees many young people from poor areas, particularly those with African or Arab-sounding names, struggle to find jobs.

Also over the weekend, a 41-year-old man was stabbed to death in a shop after a row in a gang-plagued area of Seine-Saint-Denis northeast of Paris. Ten people have been arrested.

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