Marseilles gang murders spark crisis talks after death of soccer boss' son
Politicians are under pressure to tackle violence, including shooting death of soccer club boss' son
The French government was holding crisis talks yesterday over a spate of gangland murders in Marseilles, after the shooting of a soccer boss' son - the 15th gun death this year - sparked soul-searching over the Mediterranean city's inability to shed its image as the "Chicago of the south".
Adrien Anigo, 30, whose father, Jose Anigo, is sporting director of Olympique de Marseille, was shot dead in broad daylight on Thursday by two men on a motorbike while he was driving a rented car.
The father of two, who ran a brasserie, was well known to police. He had been under investigation over jewellery store armed robberies carried out by a local gang and had been due to appear in court in the near future. In the past, he had served time in prison on remand before being released over a judicial error, French media reported.
Hours before Anigo was killed, a 24-year-old man was gunned down at La Ciotat just outside Marseilles after masked men on motorbikes tracked him arriving at his place of work.
The government is under pressure to act on the violent crime that has blighted Marseilles as it tries to shed its old image as a city of gangs, drug deals, corruption and political clientelism. The ongoing problems have cast a shadow over Marseilles' stint as European capital of culture this year. While tourist numbers have risen sharply in the past six months, with the city aiming to attract 10 million visitors this year and the new Museum of the Mediterranean hailed as an architectural masterpiece, French headlines have been dominated by gang murders.
This year's death toll has not yet matched that of 2012, an exceptionally high total of 24 gang killings in the Bouches-du-Rhone area including Marseilles, but the methods have alarmed authorities. Increasingly, AK47s - reportedly available for €500 (HK$5,000) each - are being used to settle scores. Execution-style killings, once described by the state prosecutor as Marseilles' "regrettable speciality", persist.
The interior minister, Manuel Valls, has ordered together all political parties, saying: "I understand the anger of the Marseilles people, but we need time [to act] against drug-trafficking and daily delinquency."
He called a truce on the left-right political slanging matches over who was to blame. The right-wing mayor of Marseilles, Jean-Claude Gaudin, has denounced France's "Marseilles-bashing".
Last month the state sent 130 extra riot police and 24 investigators to Marseilles, but many observers say the problem runs deeper. Although Marseille has recovered from the 1990s years of industrial decline, unemployment is above the national average and more than 20 per cent of residents live below the poverty line. Some estates have more than 40 per cent youth unemployment, and young people have few prospects, but the "underground drug economy".
Marie-Arlette Carlotti, a government minister competing in the Socialist primary race to choose a Marseilles mayoral candidate next year, said the "real mafia networks" must be neutralised.