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Two French prison officers stabbed as strike enters fifth day

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Strikers picket the prison at Vendin-le-Vieil on Tuesday FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

Two French prison officers were seriously injured by three prisoners, one a suspected radicalised Islamist, on Friday as a strike sparked by a similar incident entered its fifth day. Police fired teargas at strikers who had blocked the entrance to Europe's biggest prison with burning tyres and wood.


Both of the prison officers - one reportedly stabbed in the thorax, the other in the head - were taken to hospital in Bastia, the main town in the north of the Mediterranean island of Corsica where the Borgo prison is situated.

Neither of their lives was in danger, officials said.

The attack occurred when two or three prisoners barricaded themselves in the cell of one who was suspected of becoming radicalised, a suspicion that was confirmed by wiretaps, a legal source told the AFP news agency.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet described it as "intolerable" and flew to Corsica to visit the prison on Friday afternoon.

Police clash with prison wardens

An attack by an Al-Qaeda-linked inmate on a prison warden in mainland France a week ago sparked a strike that entered its fifth day on Friday.

Riot police fired teargas and charged a 150-strong picket line at Fleury-Mérogis near Paris, on Friday morning after strikers erected a barricade of burning tyres and palettes to stop their colleagues going to work.

On Thursday 123 prisoners at the prison refused to return to their cells for several hours after their midday exercise.

Fleury-Mérogis is Europe's biggest prison and the sole surviving alleged Paris attacker, Salah Abdeslam, is currently detained there.

There were similar pickets outside at least 38 other prisons, including at Fresnes, east of Paris, where an escape attempt was foiled during the night.

The arrival in court of France's "Black Widow", Patricia Dagorn, was held up for several hours on Thursday because of a picket at the prison she was being held in near Nice, on the French Riviera.

Talks with the government continued Friday, despite President Emmanuel Macron's promise that a plan for the nation's prisons would be drawn up and published in February.

As well as improved security, the unions are demanding more resources and a review of the handling of radicalised inmates, a question that has added urgency with the expected return of French nationals who went to fight with the Islamic State armed group in Syria and Iraq.

Some 500 of the 70,000 inmates in French prisons have been sentenced for crimes connected with Islamist terror, while 1,200 common law prisoners have been identified as radicalised.

Overcrowding criticised at UN

The crisis in France's prisons is largely due to chronic overcrowding, which is as high as 140 percent of capacity.

Several countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, Iran and Venezuela, called on Paris to improve the situation as part of a review at the UN's human rights commission on Friday.

Earlier in the week the French representative admitted that much needs to be done but pointed out that accommodation 15,000 new places is to be built and existing prisons renovated.

All member-states go through the review procedure once every four years.

The recommendation was one of 300, put to the commission for approval Friday.

Others included ensuring that anti-terror legislation respects human rights, banning corporal punishment for children and better integration of the disabled and Roma people.