PRISONER involved in a gangland feud has been shot dead by a sniper from a hill overlooking the exercise yard of his jail.
Mobster Sghair Larimi, a key witness in an ongoing murder investigation, was shot at five times.
He died from a wound to his chest at Varces-Grenoble prison, France. A second man in the exercise yard was hit in the hand.
The gunman was arrested within minutes with his rifle – fitted with a telescopic sight – still hot. He had been trying to escape on a motorbike with a false plate.
Investigators believe Larimi, 29, was being silenced by gangland rivals.
He was jailed for eight years earlier this year for robberies committed in 2001, and had been due to give evidence in an investigation into a mafia-style massacre of nine men in Grenoble, France in 2007. Those killings were said to have been in revenge for the murder of Lassad Larimi, the victim's brother, several months earlier.
Convicts were yesterday barred from the exercise yard of the prison, which is surrounded by mountains in the Alpine city in south east France. An investigation into security is being carried out.
The suspected gunman, aged 58, has been remanded in custody. French justice minister Rachida Dati said: “He denies the facts, but he was arrested when he was getting on to his motorbike and his rifle was still warm.”
Miss Dati said it was the first time a French prisoner had been killed from outside prison walls.
She said: “It is an extremely rare incident, but also a very serious breach of security and a full investigation has been launched into how this came to happen.”
Inmates rioted after the attack. Prisons union spokesman Jean-Pierre Schiefer said he had highlighted the potential dangers of the hill overlooking the yard on several occasions.
He said: “We had pointed out several times to prison officers there that prisoners could be targeted from the hill, there is a clear view of the yard. They did nothing because this kind of crime had never occurred before.
“Steps must now be taken to make sure this can never happen in France again.”