Riots erupt in French city after man killed by police

17th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Rioters opened fire and torched shops and cars in France's Grenoble city Saturday after police shot dead a suspected robber, forcing the government to vow a swift crackdown on "delinquents".

Youths torched between 50 and 60 cars in the southeastern city nestled in the French Alps as well as construction equipment and two shops in the early hours of the morning. Police said they made five arrests.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux visited the scene later Saturday and pledged to quickly restore order to the working class La Villeneuve neighbourhood.

"When I say quick, I mean immediately, that's how we are going to re-establish public order and the authority of the State," he told a press briefing.

"There is a simple and clear reality in this country: there's no future for hoodlums and delinquents because in the end the public authority always wins."

The rioting started after a memorial service for 27-year-old Karim Boudouda, who had died 24 hours earlier in a shootout with police after allegedly holding up the Uriage-les-Bains casino near Grenoble.

Shortly before midnight, a group of around 30 youths armed with baseball bats and iron bars attacked a tram in Boudouda's La Villeneuve district and forced the passengers out.

Police intervened and the youths began torching vehicles and attacking police who responded with tear gas.

At around 2:30 am, a youth emerged at the front of the rioters and fired a shot at police, who returned fire, police spokeswoman Brigette Jullien told AFP.

Nobody was injured in the riots, said police, who arrested two men aged 18 and 20 for setting fire to vehicles and three more for attempted looting of shops.

Hortefeux, with a horde of media in tow, made a lightning 15-minute tour of La Villeneuve in the afternoon and promised quick action by the authorities.

"I've asked the prefect to use all means to secure the neighbourhood... for now and for as much time as necessary for calm to return," he said.

Some residents listening to the interior minister, who also promised to crack down on any drug and arms trafficking in the area, were not totally reassured.

"On the one hand it's reassuring, on the other it can only stir up the hatred of some people," a florist in the neighbourhood told AFP, adding that he wanted to empty his shop in case there were more incidents.

"The minister's visit only risks aggravating the situation," said another resident who also asked not to be identified.

According to police union SGP-FO, violence has been on the rise in recent months in Grenoble. "Police are at breaking point," said regional union chief Daniel Chomette.

The union called for reinforcements, and for classifying the Grenoble district as a "difficult zone".

The casino at Uriage-les-Bains was the third to be attacked in southeastern France and Switzerland since late March.

An alleged accomplice of Boudouda escaped during the shootout and was on the run. Police found between 20,000 and 40,000 euros (25,000-50,000 dollars) in the back of the getaway car.

Prosecutor Jean Philippe said the police had acted in legitimate self-defence when they were fired on at least three times after a car chase which ended in La Villeneuve.

The police fired back, hitting Boudouda in the head, he said.

An autopsy was to be carried out Saturday on Boudouda, who had three convictions for armed robbery.

© 2010 AFP

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