Police under death threats in France riot city
A group of police officers have been forced to take time off after receiving death threats and coming under fire in the French city of Grenoble, officials said on Tuesday.
Authorities reported another arson attack overnight, following a string of arrests and raids as tensions rumbled on after a week of fierce street battles sparked by the killing of a robber by police.
Judicial officials said Tuesday that arsonists drove a burning car into a municipal storage building in the working class suburb of Villeneuve, scene of running battles between police and rioters last week.
The local police chief Brigitte Jullien told reporters that three officers involved in the July 15 shooting had been transferred out of their unit and that reinforcements had been brought in from other cities.
Another 20 officers from the same detective squad have taken time off to spend with their families and "take a step back following these threats", she said.
Police said they found submachine guns and handguns when they raided a bar in Villeneuve on Monday. Meanwhile, authorities said gangs had made death threats against local officers over the killing of the suspect.
"We are giving protection to the families who are threatened but at the same time we are using lots of means to find the authors of these threats," said Prime Minister Francois Fillon.
"They will be arrested and brought to justice."
A representative if the SGP-FO police union, Daniel Chomette, confirmed there had been death threats.
"Radical protection measures have been taken due to the real threat and the special circumstances in Grenoble," he told AFP.
"Since it was a seasoned criminal who died in the police action, the underworld and the gangs want to avenge his death."
President Nicolas Sarkozy last week fired the district police chief in response to the violence and has vowed to wage "war" on criminals.
Rioters opened fire and torched shops and cars in Grenoble on the weekend of July 16 after police shot dead 27-year-old Karim Boudouda, as they chased a group which had allegedly held up a casino.
A prosecutor ruled police had fired in self-defence after Boudouda opened fire on them with an automatic weapon.
Chomette said at the time that violence was rising in Grenoble and "police are at breaking point."
The rioters "are capable of anything," he said on Tuesday. "We saw it on those nights -- they came out of the crowd with their faces covered and weapons in their hands to fire at the police vehicles."
No one was injured in the riots but police arrested several people including four suspected of attempted homicide for shooting live rounds, and others for throwing missiles and looting.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux vowed to restore order quickly. "There's no future for hoodlums and delinquents because in the end the public authority always wins," he said at the time.
Tension often runs high between residents and police in France's largely immigrant urban districts.
In October 2005, weeks of rioting broke out in deprived suburbs across France, sparked by the death of two youths who were electrocuted when they entered an electricity installation as they ran away from police.
© 2010 AFP