Macron’s fight against crime comes under scrutiny after the murder of a police officer in Avignon

French politicians and police unions on Thursday voiced their outrage over the murder of an officer at a well-known drug trafficker in the southern city of Avignon, which sparked a debate over President Emmanuel Macron’s track record in fighting crime.

The 36-year-old officer and father of two was gunned down on Wednesday night while investigating an on-site meeting, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

The shooter remains at large.

The murder caused a deep shock in Avignon, famous for being the seat of Catholic Popes in the 14th century and for hosting one of the world’s greatest theater festivals every July.

Visiting the scene Wednesday night, Darmanin greeted the dead officer, whose first name was given by the La Provence newspaper as Eric, as a “soldier” who “died a hero” in a “war” against drug dealers.

The attack took place in the center of Avignon, on a cobbled street along a canal.

A team of plainclothes agents sent to investigate a suspected drug deal were conducting identity checks on a group of people when one of them opened fire, a police source told AFP.

The man fired “several times” at the officer and the others fired back, but failed to arrest the shooter before fleeing through the historic heart of the city, the source said.

A woman suspected of being present in the robbery was arrested for questioning on Thursday.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that this odious crime does not go unpunished,” tweeted Prime Minister Jean Castex.

Un de nos policiers a été mortellement blessé, ce soir, à Avignon, alors qu’il était and intervention. don’t wait too long after impuni.

Polls show that violent crime is a major concern for voters ahead of next year’s presidential election, in which Macron is expected to seek a second term in office.

A poll by Elabe last month found that 65 percent of voters were unhappy with the president’s track record in maintaining law and order.

In a recent interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Macron described the fight against drug dealers who have taken over residential areas in parts of Paris, Marseilles and other cities as “the mother of all battles.”

“I fight for the right to live in peace,” Macron said.

Union police official: France ‘no longer protects its agents’

Police have named Avignon as one of several cities in the south now ravaged by the drug-related violence that has long plagued Marseille, a major hub in the trans-Mediterranean marijuana and cocaine trade.

They accuse the state of not doing enough to protect them while fighting drug syndicates as well as radical Islamists.

Last month, a female police officer was stabbed to death by a Tunisian radical at a police station in the Parisian suburb of Rambouillet, the latest in a series of terror attacks often targeting security forces.

France pays national tribute to policewoman who was fatally stabbed in Rambouillet

Eric Ciotti, an MP for the center-right Republican Party, accused the government of “looking the other way” as “France is sinking deeper into chaos every day”.

“Today we have to admit that the state no longer protects its officers,” Frederic Lagache, a representative of the Alliance’s police union, told AFP on Thursday.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen also expressed anger at the murder, accusing the state in a tweet of defaulting on the security forces.

The deputy leader of the left-wing France Unbowed party, Adrien Quatennens, argued that it was time for France to reopen the debate on marijuana legalization.

(AFP)

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