French police have arrested 20 people in a mass sweep on drug trafficking networks in the southern city of Nîmes, where the killing of a 10-year-old boy in an August shootout shocked people in the country.
According to prosecutors this Monday, the 20 suspects were "arrested at their homes and held in custody starting at 6:00 am [local time]" by a 250-strong police deployment.
The operation involved 73 investigators from the Gard departmental police service and the National Investigation Unit, backed up by support forces from RAID – an elite police unit – the Research and Intervention Brigade and the heavily armoured CRS-8 urban combat force.
Nine canine units were also deployed to search for drugs and firearms.
Reporters on the scene in the crime-plagued Pissevin district of Nîmes saw gang lookouts raise the alarm as the police deployed across the high-rise housing blocks.
Drug networks targeted
Some officers were reportedy sent to a site near the dilapidated Wagner shopping centre, where the 10-year-old – who has been named only as Fayed and did not have any connection to the drug trade – was hit by a stray bullet on 21 August.
Two young men have also been killed in the area this year.
According to police, Monday's operation was "about the drug trade" rather than the boy's killing.
Nine people were arrested last week in Nîmes and the Mediterranean port city of Marseille over Fayed's death.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have said the latest raids were following up on "several searches between July and November".
Police found eight kilogrammes of cannabis buds, seven kilogrammes of cannabis resin, 1.3 kilogrammes of cocaine and 500 ecstasy pills, as well as several thousand euros in cash and firearms, they added.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that the operation was part of his ongoing commitment to the fight against drug trafficking.
The investigations will reportedly continue while the suspects are in custody.