France sees the first signsof slowdown in violence

9th November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 9 (AFP) - Attacks by rioters in France dropped sharply for the first time in nearly two weeks of rampages as a state of emergency took effect Wednesday, raising hopes the worst unrest since May 1968 might be receding.

PARIS, Nov 9 (AFP) - Attacks by rioters in France dropped sharply for the first time in nearly two weeks of rampages as a state of emergency took effect Wednesday, raising hopes the worst unrest since May 1968 might be receding.

Though widespread unrest still flared around some 100 towns overnight, with 617 cars torched and 330 people arrested, police recorded "a very significant drop" in intensity, said a senior interior ministry official, Claude Gueant.

It came after president Jacques Chirac's cabinet gave rarely invoked powers to certain regional prefects, or governors, to impose curfews and widen police search-and-seizure tactics.

The northern town of Amiens immediately applied the measure, and Wednesday, the western towns of Rouen, Le Havre and Evreux said they would follow suit.

Three other areas -- the town of Orleans and the Parisian suburbs of Raincy and Savigny-sur-Orge -- used a different administrative procedure to declare municipal curfews overnight.

The prefect of the Seine-Saint-Denis region northeast of Paris, where the troubles started October 27, said however he would not bring in a curfew after the violence diminished for the third successive night, though 26 vehicles, a school and a warehouse were still set alight.

Even if not extinguished, police and other officials said the troubles were clearly down.

In the southern city of Toulouse, which saw serious unrest at the start of the week -- police reported only 21 burnt cars and six arrests. "The intensity has fallen markedly," said a senior official.

Police in other major cities such as Strasbourg, Lille, Nantes and Rennes recorded a sharp decrease in the number of attacks, while Paris suburbs were also relatively calm.

In another hopeful sign, fire service reinforcements brought to the capital have been withdrawn due to the "extremely clear" fall in the number of arsons in the Paris region, the interior ministry said.

However there were still some serious incidents. A 53-year-old man in the Riviera city of Nice was in a coma Wednesday after a barbell was dropped onto him from a 15-storey building.

Since it began, the unrest has left one civilian dead and dozens of police injured, caused hundreds of millions of euros in economic damage and cast a cruel light on the failures of France's integration of immigrants from its former African colonies.

The explosion of violence has been carried out by youths mainly from the Arab and black communities that dominate poor out-of-town estates.

According to official figures, a total of 1,800 people have been arrested since the beginning of the disturbances. The justice ministry said a third had been released without charge, and 130 have been sentenced to prison with more facing court.

In a CSA poll published in Le Parisien newspaper Wednesday, a vast majority of the French supported the tough security measures adopted by the government, with 73 percent supporting the curfews and 86 percent saying they were shocked and upset by the riots.

However, the recourse to the emergency law -- originally enacted 50 years ago to deal with the insurrection in Algeria at a time when that country was a French colony -- has angered the opposition and Algerian immigrants, many of whom called it a "provocation".

The left-leaning Le Monde newspaper said that "exhuming a 1955 law sends to the youth of the suburbs a message of astonishing brutality: that after 50 years France intends to treat them exactly as it did their grandparents."

Areas affected by the decree include the entire Paris region and around 30 towns and cities such as Toulouse, Marseille, Nice, Rouen, Strasbourg, Lille, Dijon and Avignon.

The measure, initially valid for 12 days, permits prefects to "forbid the movement of people and vehicles," ban meetings likely to fuel disorder and put people deemed dangerous under house arrest as well as conduct house searches.

The violence, the worst France has seen since the 1968 student revolt, was sparked by rumours surrounding the death of two teenagers of African origin in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

They were electrocuted as they hid from police in an electrical sub-station in the town.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article