Rioters 'were out to kill us', says wounded officer
28 November 2007, PARIS - "It felt like they were out to kill us. We knew there were weapons in the suburbs, but never turned against us like that," one of the police officers shot during youth riots near Paris told AFP Wednesday.
28 November 2007
PARIS - "It felt like they were out to kill us. We knew there were weapons in the suburbs, but never turned against us like that," one of the police officers shot during youth riots near Paris told AFP Wednesday.
Sent to the suburb of Villiers le Bel to quell an outbreak of violence that followed the death of two teens in a crash with police, Francois, who asked not to be fully identified, found himself under siege.
"We were attacked from all sides" by youths armed with hunting rifles."
"The kids were shooting at us at close range, loading and reloading their weapons. I've never seen anything like it. It was like in a movie. They were picking us off from 10 or 15 metres away."
"I was hit in the hand with what I thought was a slingshot. I didn't realise right away that it was buckshot, until I saw the hole in my trousers. I tried to protect my younger colleagues, then I fell to the ground."
Police unions say the scale and intensity of the violence unleashed since Sunday is worse than the 2005 riots, also sparked by the deaths of two youths.
A line was crossed, they say, when suburb gangs turned guns on the police, 120 of whom were injured, several by gunwound. The hunting rifles used by the gangs are dangerous anywhere within a 300-metre (yard) range.
Bruno Beschizza of the Synergie-Officiers police union said he had told Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie of the fear sparked among the police rank and file by the recent flare-up.
"We told her that our colleagues, out in the field, were afraid. How would you not be when a guy pulls a gun out of his sleeve?" he told AFP.
"There were not enough of us to sustain that kind of a siege," Francois said. "I had run out of (rubber bullet) ammunition. We really got a fright. We felt they were out to kill us. We didn't know where we were any more."
Police unionists and officers admitted that security forces were "caught off guard" on Monday, the worst night of violence.
Tuesday's ramped-up police operation, with 1,000 men and surveillance helicopters deployed to Villiers alone, was overseen by one of France's highest police chiefs in a sign of the gravity of the situation.
President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Wednesday that rioters who shot at police would be severely punished.
"Opening fire at officials is completely unacceptable," Sarkozy warned, accusing the rioters of "attempted murder" and promising that "those who take it into their hands to shoot at officials will find themselves in court."
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie has suggested that local gang leaders were orchestrating the violence, vowing "zero tolerance" in rooting out the ringleaders.
A report from Le Monde newspaper described boys as young as 13 taking orders from their elders to torch buildings and forming battle ranks against the police, vowing to "do in" a "pig" -- a police officer.
"When you fire at close range on police officers, it is obvious you intend to injure if not worse," Alliot-Marie said said.
"This is intolerable, whatever the reasons -- which are clearly just excuses for some people to settle scores or cover up their criminal activities."
Subject: French news