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Gunmen open fire on French police in Marseille

Gunmen open fire on French police in Marseille

By Brian Murphy

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Hooded gunmen armed with assault rifles opened fire on police in the French city of Marseille on Monday before an expected visit by the country’s prime minister, news reports said.

Details on the attack were not immediately clear, but authorities suggested it was linked to drug gangs and not related to terrorism or the planned visit by the prime minister, Manuel Valls.

The area of Monday’s violence, the Castellane housing project in the city’s northern suburbs, is known as a center for drug networks.

Casualties from the latest shooting also were not immediately known.

Special tactical police units converged on the site, the Associated Press and other news reports said. Some schools, businesses and neighborhoods were placed on lockdown.

Caroline Pozmentier, the deputy mayor of Marseille, suggested the incident was part of ongoing battles with drug traffickers in the Mediterranean port, the Reuters news agency reported.

The shootings come a month after Islamist terrorists staged days of bloodshed in Paris, including the storming of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 10 people dead. A total of 17 people died in the Paris attacks, which ended with twin police raids that killed three suspects.

The Paris attacks were followed by counterterrorism sweeps across Europe, including major crackdowns in neighboring Belgium.

In France, military forces were deployed to guard places of worship and other sites following the Paris attacks. Last week, a knife-wielding man attacked soldiers patrolling outside a Jewish center in the southern city of Nice.

The prime minister Valls was due in Marseille later Monday to talk about security and education.