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15 Jan, 2018 15:13

Prison officers block jails in France after blade attack by major Al-Qaeda convict (PHOTOS)

Prison officers block jails in France after blade attack by major Al-Qaeda convict (PHOTOS)

Hundreds of prison officers have blocked access to dozens of jails across France in a bid to demand tighter security around dangerous inmates after three guards were injured in an attack by a terrorist convict last week.

“We are afraid of dying today at prisons,” a trade union chief participating in the protest, Emmanuel Baudin, told BFM.

According to France Bleu, “more than a third” of the 188 correctional establishments in France have taken part in the protest.

A former senior Al-Qaeda member, 51-year-old Christian Ganczarski, attacked and wounded guards at the high-security prison in Vendin-le-Vieil on Thursday after learning that he might face extradition to the US in connection with investigations into the September 11, 2001, attacks. The prison service said he was armed with scissors and a razor blade.

On Monday, the director of the Vendin-le-Vieil prison, Richard Bauer, submitted his resignation, while the guards used washing machines and a pile of burning tires to block access to the facility on the border with Belgium.

The officers' unions say Ganczarski’s attack on the prison officers illustrates the “lax approach” of prison authorities to radicalized and violent convicts. Ganczarski is accused of masterminding the 2002 suicide blast at a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, in which 21 people were killed.

“We have between 4,000 and 5,000 assaults of staff per year, about 20 episodes of hostage-taking of staff. When will it stop? When someone is killed?” Secretary-General of UFAP-UNSA penitentiary union Jean-François Forget told Europe 1 on Sunday.

“This is the first protest [by prison officers] to show the government that it must take us seriously,” David Cucchetti of the CGT-Penitentiary of Baumettes (Marseille) said. “We must stop talking. We want concrete actions to improve our working conditions and our security.”

Some 150 officers demonstrated outside one of France's largest prisons, Fresnes prison south of Paris, where riot police were deployed, as well as in Marseille and Lyon on Monday.

On Saturday, trade unions walked out of talks with the justice ministry saying they had failed to receive a “concrete answer” to their demands to step up security around dangerous inmates.

“No concrete response to the demands of our trade union organizations has been made to put an end to the lack of resources, including security, in prisons,” the three unions said in a joint statement.

The prison where Ganczarski is being held will soon be housing Salah Abdeslam, the sole surviving suspect in the November 2015 Paris attacks, which left 130 people dead. Abdeslam will be moved to Vendin-le-Vieil next month during his trial in Belgium over a shootout with local police.