Five men held in France for attacking Calais migrants

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People walk in the southern part of the so-called "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, northern France, which is being dismantled, on March 10, 2016

People walk in the southern part of the so-called "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, northern France, which is being dismantled, on March 10, 2016 (AFP Photo/Denis Charlet)

Lille (France) (AFP) - Five men were detained in France on Friday on suspicion of attacking migrants in the port town of Calais while posing as police officers, prosecutors said.

The suspects, aged from 18 to 48, had been questioned since Wednesday and have been remanded in custody.

They are accused of attacking three Syrians in January near the train station at Calais, where thousands of refugees and other migrants have travelled hoping to make it across the Channel to Britain.

A police source said the attackers used iron bars and pickaxe handles and had tried to make out that they were police officers.

"They have not admitted that they were disguised as policemen, but they have admitted that some of them shouted 'Police!' during the attack to present themselves in this way to the migrants -- and they used expandable batons," said the source.

The five men went "repeatedly to Calais to attack migrants", the source added, saying that on several occasions the group's intention was to rob the migrants.

"In a majority of the assaults, the attackers not only beat their victims, but also took their personal belongings, like their mobile phones."

They "have denied stealing any money, but one of the Syrians attacked on the night of the 20th to 21st January reported a theft of 4,000 euros ($4,500)".

The men have admitted attacking a 13-year-old boy an hour before targeting the three Syrians in January, the source said.

Four other people were arrested on February 22 and charged with participating in attacks several months ago on migrants near the infamous Calais camp known as the "Jungle".

Two weeks earlier, seven men were arrested and jailed for assaulting five Iraqi Kurds in the neighbouring town of Dunkirk.