Night two of trouble: Paris youths stone police station

31st May 2006, Comments 0 comments

MONTFERMEIL, France, May 31, 2006 (AFP) - Dozens of youths stoned a police station early Wednesday in a second night of trouble in a rough Paris suburb, as authorities arrested a youth whose injury — along with the death of two friends — sparked last year's wave of rioting.

MONTFERMEIL, France, May 31, 2006 (AFP) - Dozens of youths stoned a police station early Wednesday in a second night of trouble in a rough Paris suburb, as authorities arrested a youth whose injury — along with the death of two friends — sparked last year's wave of rioting.

Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois — poor suburbs northeast of Paris that were the epicentre of the autumn riots — were on high alert following a first night of clashes pitting around 100 armed youths against police.

Street violence opposing local gangs and police continued late Tuesday and early Wednesday in both towns, as youths attacked a police station, set ablaze a dozen cars and rained stones down on public buildings.

Four police officers were lightly wounded while protecting the Montfermeil police station from stoning by a gang of around 30 youths.

Four other officers, visibly rattled, managed to get out of their car, in front of the Bosquets public housing estate on the border of the two towns, after youths set it on fire, AFP witnessed.

A helicopter with a spotlight canvassed the neighbourhood throughout the night, on the alert for new flare-ups.

Five youths were arrested — among them Muhittin Altun, who narrowly escaped electrocution in October after hiding from the police in a power sub-station.

Two other teenagers died in the incident, sparking a three week wave of rioting across the country.

Altun, released Wednesday morning with a court summons, was detained in Clichy-sous-Bois on charges of pitching rocks at a police car. His lawyer denied the charge.

The Montfermeil area has been tense since the centre-right mayor passed a tough anti-crime decree — later blocked by the courts — forbidding young people from gathering in the streets.

On Monday, the Montfermeil town hall and the mayor's home were attacked by gangs of masked youths wielding sticks and baseball bats.

A 250-man police contingent was sent to quell the unrest, which left seven officers lightly injured.

France's tough interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, pledged late Tuesday he would clamp down on any further violence. "I won't let chaos be stirred up anywhere in France," he said.

Speaking to a group of policemen, he described Monday's violence in Montfermeil as a well-orchestrated strike.

"More than 100 troublemakers set upon you, masked and carrying weapons," he said. "It's impossible to deny the evidence: this was premeditated."

Left-wing municipal authorities in Montfermeil said Monday's incidents were sparked by the "heavy-handed" arrest of a woman from the Bosquets estate whose son was wanted in connection with a robbery.

But Sarkozy brushed aside the criticism — saying said it showed only that "by battling delinquency, we have upset some of the delinquents."

Two police unions, Alliance and the SCHFPN, charged meanwhile that a "weak judicial response" to local crime had "encouraged a hard core of delinquents".

Security has been scaled up across the area — although regional authorities have denied the events were linked to the November unrest.

Last year's riots, which quickly spread from a run-down estate in Clichy-sous-Bois to high-immigration suburbs around the country, prompted the government to declare a national state of emergency.

They were fuelled by anger at racial discrimination, a lack of educational and employment prospects and police harassment.

The final toll of three weeks of unrest rose to 10,000 vehicles torched and more than 3,200 people arrested.

France's centre-right government has since promised a string of measures to fight discrimination and improve access to education, jobs and housing for residents of the riot-hit areas.

But more than four in five French people said in January they feared the riots could flare up again.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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