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Originally published Friday, July 8, 2011 at 5:31 PM

French police investigate Wild West-style train robbery

French police are investigating a train robbery near Marseille in which a group of youths wearing ski masks held up a passenger train and robbed a freight train following behind.

McClatchy-Tribune

quotes "youths" robbing a train near a "benlieue"? Almost certainly, this... Read more

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PARIS — French police on Friday were investigating a train robbery on the outskirts of Marseille in which a group of youths wearing ski masks held up a passenger train and robbed a freight train following behind.

In what France Info radio called a "modern-day stagecoach robbery," the robbers barricaded the tracks running west along the coast from Marseille toward the town of Miramas, with planks and shopping carts and then lay in wait.

The holdup took place Thursday close to a low-income suburb of high-rise apartment blocks, shortly after 9 p.m.

The first train to arrive was a regional train, with 26 passengers on board. The train screeched to a halt after hitting one of the shopping carts. No one was injured, but the train was damaged.

The thieves, some of whom were armed with iron bars according to witnesses, did not target that train.

Their sights were set on a freight train belonging to Euro Cargo Rail (ECR), a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Bahn, which arrived down the tracks shortly afterward.

After rifling through the carriages, they made off with some of the merchandise, according to ECR, which said the train was carrying "consumer goods."

By the time the police arrived on the scene, the robbers had melted back into the landscape.

The passengers on the first train had to disembark and walk to the nearest level crossing to be evacuated.

French rail authorities denounced the "act of vandalism" against the passenger train.

ECR called on French authorities to find solutions to ensure the safety of its staff.

The Marseille area has witnessed a number of freight-train robberies. The most recent incident occurred in June 2008 and took place in the same part of the city. On that occasion, the thieves made off with computer equipment after barring a train's path with a container of rubble.

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