Tuesday's ambush on a prison van in northern France by balaclava-wearing gunmen seeking to free a drug dealer known as "The Fly" resulted in the deaths of two prison guards, severe injuries to three others, and an extensive police search. 

The blatantly premeditated attack highlights the growing threat of drug-related crime throughout Europe, the cocaine market that leads the world. It happened at a toll booth in Incarville, in the northern French region of Eure, at approximately 0900 GMT. 

Mohamed Amra, the escaped prisoner, is a 30-year-old drug dealer from northern France, according to police and the Paris prosecutor's office. He was detained at the Val de Reuil prison after being found guilty of burglary by an Evreux court on May 10.

Additionally, Amra was charged by Marseille prosecutors for a kidnapping that resulted in a fatality, according to the Paris prosecutor's office. According to a Marseille police source, Amra was a drug dealer with connections to the influential "Blacks" gang in the city.

Amra's attorney was not immediately reachable by Reuters.  An extensive search has begun, according to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

"Every effort is being made to locate these offenders. Many hundred police officers and gendarmes were mobilized per my orders," he wrote on X. 

Amra was being driven to a Rouen meeting with an investigating judge when the prison van was attacked, according to Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti. Two of the injured officers, he said, were critically ill. 

"Absolutely everything will be done to find the perpetrators of this despicable crime," he told BFM TV. "These are people for whom life means nothing. They will be arrested, judged and punished according to the crime they committed."

Pictures on social media appeared to show at least two men with rifles in balaclavas circling a burning SUV. The jail van's front looked to have been collided with by the SUV. 

Every year, a massive influx of cocaine into Europe fuels organized crime, resulting in increasingly violent clashes with law enforcement and lethal turf wars between gangs. 

As far as the European Union is concerned, drug-related homicides are now more dangerous than terrorism, according to Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson of the bloc.

The most violent gang conflict in France has been concentrated in Marseille, where trafficking clans are engaged in a particularly bloody war.