Five minors in custodyover burning bus attack

31st October 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Oct 31, 2006 (AFP) - French police arrested five minors early Tuesday in the hunt for a gang who fire-bombed a bus in this southern city critically injuring a woman in a flare-up of violence a year after a wave of riots.

MARSEILLE, France, Oct 31, 2006 (AFP) - French police arrested five minors early Tuesday in the hunt for a gang who fire-bombed a bus in this southern city critically injuring a woman in a flare-up of violence a year after a wave of riots.

Aged 15 to 17, the youths were detained in a pre-dawn raid in the Marseille district where Saturday's attack took place, the city's state prosecutor told reporters.

A 26-year-old Senegalese student, trapped on the bus when it was doused with petrol and set alight, is hovering between life and death in hospital with burns to 60 percent of her body.

Marseille state prosecutor Jacques Beame said doctors could not say for sure whether she would live.

The attack was the worst incident in a surge of violence over the weekend, exactly one year after three weeks of riots erupted across high-unemployment, mainly immigrant suburbs.

The prosecutor's office has opened a criminal investigation for arson causing serious or permanent injury, which carries a jail term of up to 30 years.

The four 17-year-olds and a 15-year-old were detained at their homes and then taken into custody "on the basis of witness accounts" from the bus driver and passengers who escaped the attack as well as local residents, Beaume said.

"The bus driver is convinced it was the same youths," he said, adding that experts were analysing security camera footage from the bus to try to identify the perpetrators.

About 50 officers, some in plain clothes, took part in the raid, which lasted about an hour and passed off without incident, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

"This is my son... he has an alibi," cried the father of one of them as police whisked him away.

Local residents told AFP some of the youths were wrongly arrested.

"Everyone around here knows who did it, but we won't snitch on them," said one 22-year-old man, giving his name as Atef.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Monday that all would be done to catch the attackers.

"Believe me, we will find them," Sarkozy said after an emergency meeting with Villepin and transport chiefs. "This is a promise I made to (her) family". "And this promise will be kept."

The young woman, Mama Galledou, had recently obtained a master's degree in nutrition at a Marseille university, where around 250 students and teachers held a rally in her support on Tuesday.

"We are all devastated, we can't understand it. She didn't deserve this — neither does anyone," said Sarak Sack, 26, a fellow student and close friend of the victim.

"Mama is a very warm, sociable person, full of life," she said. "We are praying for her to pull through this".

Galledou was on a respirator and in an induced coma with burns to her face, legs, arms, hands and throat, exposing her to breathing, neurological and infectious problems, doctors said. Her family was at her side.

President Jacques Chirac said in an intervivew in Le Figaro newspaper Tuesday that France must remain "firm in the face of violence" while working to guarantee opportunity to all citizens, including immigrants and their children.

"Everyone must be conscious of their role in society and reject violence," Chirac said, adding that the "situation remains difficult in certain areas".

He was buoyed by jobless figures showing unemployment fell to 8.8 percent of the workforce in September. In some areas worst-hit by last year's riots the jobless rate is as high as 40 percent.

Bus drivers in Marseille and Nice resumed work Monday after stoppages to protest the attack.

Two hundred extra riot police were deployed to Marseille to provide extra security.

Elsewhere in France, police reinforcements were also standing by after the weekend wave of violence.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article