Armed men hijack, burn bus in Paris suburb

26th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - Armed youths hijacked and set fire to a bus in the suburbs of Paris Thursday while hooded gangs torched two others overnight, in a flare-up of tensions on the eve of the anniversary of last year's riots.

PARIS, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - Armed youths hijacked and set fire to a bus in the suburbs of Paris Thursday while hooded gangs torched two others overnight, in a flare-up of tensions on the eve of the anniversary of last year's riots.

Around 10 masked men — five of them carrying handguns — forced the driver and passengers off a night bus heading from Bagnolet to Montreuil, on the eastern edge of the capital, at around 1:00 am on Thursday morning.

Both towns are in the disadvantaged, high-immigrant department of Seine-Saint-Denis, starting point of the riots that erupted on October 27 last year, spreading to hundreds of towns around Paris and other cities.

"They stole the bus, drove it a short distance away and set fire to it," a spokesman for the Paris region transport service RATP said.

Police said that one man held his gun against the driver's head to force him off the bus, although no-one was hurt in the attack.

Earlier, hooded youths set fire to a bus in the western suburb of Nanterre, not far from the La Defense business district, leaving passengers scrambling to escape, firemen and police said.

A dozen youths boarded the bus, threw an inflammable liquid inside, lit it and fled.

"There were at least 10 passengers on board, who only just had enough time to get out. Thankfully there was nobody disabled on board or it could have ended badly," said a police officer.

A third attack took place in Athis-Mons south of Paris, where police said three masked youths ordered passengers off a bus, hurled a Molotov cocktail inside and fled. The driver managed to put out the flames.

Outside Paris, in a suburb of the central-eastern city of Lyon, a bus was also torched by vandals as it was parked in a depot.

Police have warned of an increase in tensions in recent weeks, as the anniversary of the riots approached. Officers have on several occasions been the targets of ambushes in the Paris suburbs.

Seine-Saint-Denis police chief David Skuli said the bus attacks appeared to be "copycat" incidents, after a bus was set on fire in Grigny south of Paris on Sunday, but said the violence so far remained "limited".

Minor clashes broke out with police and firemen Wednesday night in Grigny, where youths threw stones at passing cars and police vehicles for around an hour until order was restored.

Stones were also thrown at police and firefighters who came to put out a burning car in nearby Corbeil-Essonnes.

Police will be on high alert for new outbreaks of violence Friday but have been told to keep their presence low-key to avoid encouraging confrontation with local youths, officers told AFP.

Over three weeks last October and November, rioting youths burned more than 10,000 cars and damaged 300 buildings with Molotov cocktails. The troubles made front-page news around the world and cast the spotlight on France's trouble in integrating its Arab-origin and black communities.

The spark for the rioting was the accidental deaths of two local teenagers in the run-down Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, who were electrocuted while hiding from the police.

Town residents are to hold a silent march in tribute to the two boys on Friday, before unveiling a monument in their memory. Later Friday, the town has planned an evening of concerts, films and debates.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin defended his government's record in fighting deprivation in the high-immigration suburbs.

"If there is one field in which the government has acted with unfailing determination, it is in policy towards the (poor) neighbourhoods," Villepin said at his monthly press conference.

"Of course the problems are not all going to be sorted out overnight. But the government has embarked on a radical, long-term plan of action, and we are beginning to see the first results."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article