Toulouse drugs war: Two die in two days as violence escalates

Police say 'We’re clearly into score settling'

Paris

Toulouse risks becoming the new Marseilles, France’s murder capital, according to police, who are investigating two suspected revenge killings in as many days which have been linked to the city’s illegal drugs trade.

A 24-year-old suspected drugs trafficker was executed at point blank range on Friday evening in the southern Toulouse suburb of La Fourguette by a helmeted man who targeted him in a café, prosecutor Michel Valet said on Saturday. Mehdi El Aouamad’s body was raked with six bullets from a Kalashnikov assault rifle before the murderer fled with an accomplice on a scooter.

The shooting came 24 hours after a similar execution-style killing on Thursday of a 29-year-old who had recently been released from jail after being convicted of murder.

Police found 15 spent cartridges at the scene in Beauzelle, north-west Toulouse where Walid  Larbi-Bey was killed.

Both victims, of North African origin, had grown up in the troubled Les Izards suburb of the “pink city”, where drugs trafficking is rife. Police suspect that the two murders may be connected and one said: “We’re clearly into score settling,” in an escalating drugs war among gangs.

Asked whether Toulouse is now the new Marseilles, Mr Valat said: “Unfortunately, Marseilles has nothing to envy us in this series of events. I think the situation is extremely serious. In less than nine months, we’ve had four assassinations and two attempted murders.”

Marseilles, France’s second largest city, still has a far higher death toll linked to drugs traffickers in the city’s northern districts. A total 15 people have been killed since January in such score settling in Marseilles where crime is an inner city problem, unlike other big French cities where problem communities are parked in the suburbs which ring the urban centres.

The most recent attack in Marseilles was on 1 August, when a man was shot several times in a drive-by shooting in the eastern Bel-Air district. It was the port city’s fifth suspected revenge killing in one month.

One suspected dealer who was shot with an assault rifle after being knocked off his scooter on 18 July was the nephew of a deputy mayor of the city, Nora Preziosi. She was brought up in northern Marseilles and had lost another nephew in similar circumstances in 2012.

According to Mr Valet, the radicalisation of the criminal underworld marks a worrying new departure for Toulouse, which became notorious for a shooting spree two years ago by self-styled al-Qa’ida jihadist Mohamed Merah. Merah, who was also raised in Les Izards, was killed in a gun battle with police in March 2012.

“We’re faced with extreme violence, which has not only not been stopped, but is getting worse,” Mr Valet said.

Toulouse has seen gang rivalry and extortion rackets over money or drugs “which go bad,” said the local paper, the Depeche du Midi.

“But not a war between former friends turned enemies who come from the same neighbourhood.”

Youths from Les Izards frequent a pizzeria where Mr El Aouamad worked, and investigators have traced the latest two killings to the attempted murder of one of the managers there in early December. Mr Larbi-Bey was arrested after that shooting but investigators were unable to press charges. Then on January 21st, 25-year old Miloud Nemar was mowed down by automatic gunfire at point blank range in the pizza parlour where apparently the killers mistook him for the manager.

Mr Valet has appealed for witnesses to come forward after the tit-for-tat shootings since Thursday, but according to local sources such cooperation between police and the communities in the suburbs is rare.

Residents of Toulouse, half the size of Marseilles which has a population of 850,000, are concerned about their picturesque city descending into Marseilles-style violence.

But one resident of the Bagatelle district where Friday’s shooting took place told RTL radio yesterday: “Nobody’s surprised. I’ve just moved here from the north, and it’s worse than Paris here.”

In Marseilles, Manuel Valls, as interior minister before he became prime minister, ordered the creation of “priority security zones”, but the spate of gangland killings in Marseilles appears to show that increasing the number of police in certain areas has not proved a deterrent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - North West London, £35-40k

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant (ACCA / CIMA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Team

£11 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A 10 year old girl who has profound an...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Manchester - Urgent Requirement!

£30000 - £35000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development Manager ...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore