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Visiting France

French want army to combat gun crime in Marseille

media Marseille, also the biggest port in the Mediterranean Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Nearly six out of 10 French voters would back the idea of sending the army into Marseille to deal with escalating gun crime in the Mediterranean port city, according to a poll published on Thursday

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed by YouGov backed the proposal. The results were published by the French language version of the Huffington Post website on Thursday.

Only 25 percent of respondents opposed deploying the army and 76 percent took the view that a recent spate of drugs-related killings marked a "lasting deterioration" of the situation in the city, the poll found.

The idea of deploying troops in Marseille was first floated by one of the city’s politicians last year, but dismissed by government ministers.

On Thursday a prominent member of the ruling Socialist Party suggested it should be considered.

"Why not?" said Segolene Royal, former PS presidential candidate and the ex-partner of President Francois Hollande.

"This poll is an expression of the exasperation felt by many French people, the feeling that you have gangsters running around using weapons of war....Marseille is not at war but given the proliferation of these weapons, why not envisage cooperation between the police and the army to seize and destroy them."

Two fatal shootings last week took the number of people killed in gang-related violence in Marseille this year to 15, or 39 since the start of 2012.

One of the latest victims was the son of Jose Anigo, a former coach and the current sporting director of the city's football club, Olympique Marseille.

Adrien Anigo was shot through the head by assailants riding a high-cylinder motorcycle.

Police say most of the murders in Marseille are linked to turf wars between multiple rival gangs battling for control of the drugs trade in the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

The violence, they say, is aggravated by the easy availability of high-calibre weapons, with the street price of a Kalashnikov automatic rifle, the murder instrument of choice, reported to be as little as 500 euros.

Marseille, the biggest port in the Mediterranean, has long had links to the international drugs trade as famously depicted in the film The French Connection.

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