Police predict new round of violence in suburbs

16th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - Almost a year after France's suburban riots, police warned Monday of a new spiral of violence in the country's high-immigration 'banlieues' — where they say they are increasingly the target of attacks with intent to maim, or worse.

PARIS, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - Almost a year after France's suburban riots, police warned Monday of a new spiral of violence in the country's high-immigration 'banlieues' — where they say they are increasingly the target of attacks with intent to maim, or worse.

A crescendo of outraged alarm from police unions has been triggered by three serious clashes in tough estates near the capital, where officers were stoned and beaten by gangs of youths, as well as by figures showing a growing defiance towards the forces of law and order.

In the latest attack on Friday night in the southern Paris 'banlieue' of Epinay-sur-Seine, three officers were ambushed in their patrol car and set upon by around 30 youths with stones and metal bars. According to police, shots were even fired by one of the assailants.

The squad used "flash-ball" stun-guns and fired their hand weapons in the air to deter the crowd, but was only rescued when reinforcements arrived on the scene. One officer was hospitalised, requiring 30 stitches on his face.

Two similar clashes have occurred in the last three weeks at the Les Tartarets estate in Corbeil-Essonnes and at Les Mureaux, in the western Paris outskirts.

"For me all three incidents are obviously linked. There is a disturbance, the cops are called, and then they lay into them," said Bruno Beschizza of the Synergie Officiers union. "In the last month there has been a change. Now it is like they want to kill."

"These guys came to kill. They were hooded and they had baseball bats and iron bars," Joaquin Masanet, of the UNSA union, told Libération newspaper of the incident in Epinay.

Another union — Action Police — said in a statement: "It shows that what we are dealing with here is not youths in need of more social aid, but individuals declaring war on the Republic."

Several police officials warned that it could only be a matter of time before either a rioter or a policeman is killed, further poisoning the climate in France's out-of-city estates and hastening a resurgence of last November's unrest.

Speaking on condition of not being identified, one young police officer told AFP that conditions in the poor 'banlieues' are becoming unbearable for new recruits, many of whom demand an early transfer.

"When we go into the estates for the smallest job, we are surrounded and prevented from acting. So in order to do anything we have to move in quickly and in force - which undermines our human contact with the community," he said.

"No-one has drawn the lessons of the 2005 riots. We are not sufficiently trained for urban violence, yet we are often in face-to-face situations," said another officer.

Le Monde newspaper meanwhile published ministry figures that appeared to confirm a growing willingness among young delinquents to choose police and other representatives of public services as targets.

Some 480 incidents of this type were recorded in September — a 30 percent increase on August, Le Monde said. And it quoted interior ministry figures showing that 2,458 police officers were hurt on service in the first six months of the year — compared to 4,246 for the whole of 2005.

"Behind the statistics police specialists detect a harder, better organised type of delinquency. However they are unwilling to draw definitive conclusions about the increase in attacks on police," Le Monde said.

Interior ministry officials noted that police unions are exploiting the media impact of the recent attacks to the full, ahead of union elections next months.

With France's presidential elections due to take place in April, the resurgence of tensions in the 'banlieues' has major political implications — raising questions over the tactics of Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.

Manuel Valls, socialist mayor of Evry in the southern Paris suburbs, said Sarkozy — who is widely hated by youth in the poor estates — had "uncontestably created disorder."

Thousands of cars and hundreds of buildings were torched last year in three weeks of nightly confrontations. With the October 27 anniversary approaching, police say there is no sign of a coordinated plot to rekindle violence, but warn that the half-term holiday and end of Ramadan coincide at the end of the month.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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