France Chiolo stabbing: Guards protest after jail 'terror attack'

Waste burns as prison guards block the entrance to the penitentiary centre of Alencon, in Conde-sur-Sarthe, northwestern France, on early March 6, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Dozens of guards blocked access to the Conde-sur-Sarthe prison where the two guards were attacked

French prison guards blocked access to 18 prisons on Wednesday after an inmate in the north of the country wounded two guards in what the justice minister said was a terrorist attack.

Michaël Chiolo was apparently given a knife when his female partner visited a high-security jail in Normandy.

They barricaded themselves into a family-visiting area before police eventually moved in.

Unions called for action at all prisons over safety and staffing.

France has for years had to grapple with the spread of jihadism in its jail system.

The head of Condé-sur-Sarthe jail near Alençon, where the attack took place, was seen unsuccessfully appealing to protesting guards to be allowed in. Tyres were set on fire and when police arrived they were jeered as the guards stopped them getting through.

A hundred guards refused to let anyone into another high-security jail at Fleury-Mérogis, news channel BFMTV reported.

One guard, Cédric, told the Ouest France website that he had treated the two guards stabbed in the attack. "It was carnage, the ferocity of it. I'm thinking of my colleagues and I worry tomorrow that might be us."

What happened in the jail?

At 09:45 on Tuesday, Michaël Chiolo, a 27-year-old inmate thought to have been radicalised in jail several years ago, was visited by his 34-year-old female partner in a special "family life" visiting unit. It was thought she had smuggled in a ceramic knife, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said.

Unconfirmed reports say the woman called for help from two guards and then the pair launched their attack, described by Ms Belloubet as a "terrorist" incident.

Both guards were seriously wounded, one with injuries to the thorax, the other to his face, colleagues said.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The day-long standoff came to an end when a police unit stormed the family area where Chiolo and his partner had been holding out

Chiolo shouted "Allahu Akhbar" (God is Greatest) and said he wanted to avenge the death of Strasbourg gunman Cherif Chekatt, Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said. Chekatt killed five people near the city's Christmas market last December.

After failed attempts at negotiation, elite police stormed the unit at 18:40.

Both were shot and wounded by police, and the woman died of her wounds when she "launched herself" on one of the officers.

Who is Chiolo?

Chiolo has been serving a 30-year sentence since 2015 and was reportedly radicalised as a militant Islamist while serving a previous jail term in 2012.

He came across the Strasbourg gunman while in jail in eastern France in 2015 and spent 175 days in the same penitentiary, Franceinfo reported.

Of Italian origin, he ran away from his family and became involved in petty crime.

Aged 20, he and an accomplice targeted an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor who escaped from Dachau concentration camp in Nazi Germany. They tied him up and choked him to death.

While in jail, he was sentenced to an extra year in prison for condoning terrorism. He had asked fellow inmates to "re-enact" the 2015 terror attack on the Bataclan music venue in Paris, which left 90 people dead.

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