Riots in Paris shock France
26 November 2007, PARIS - A French judge ordered a manslaughter inquiry on Monday after the death of two teenagers in a crash with police sparked a night of rioting in a flashpoint Paris suburb.
26 November 2007
PARIS - A French judge ordered a manslaughter inquiry on Monday after the death of two teenagers in a crash with police sparked a night of rioting in a flashpoint Paris suburb.
The violence was some of the worst since nationwide riots in 2005, which erupted in similar circumstances.
The two youths, aged 15 and 16, died after their motorbike collided with a police car in the high-immigration suburb of Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday evening. Six hours of clashes followed.
Gangs of youths used guns against police, according to one police union, as they torched some 30 cars and looted shops and buildings. Twenty-five police and one firefighter were injured, officials said. Calm was eventually restored just after midnight.
About 100 youths thronged the crash site on a high-rise housing estate, accusing police of fleeing the scene.
A state prosecutor said she had ordered an internal police investigation for "involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist persons in danger" following the deaths of the two youths.
Police said the bike smashed into the side of their car during a routine patrol. Neither youth was wearing a helmet, according to witnesses.
Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the victims, accused police of ramming the motorbike and of failing to assist the injured teens.
"This is a failure to assist a person in danger... it is 100-percent a (police) blunder. They know it, and that's why they did not stay at the scene," he told France Info radio.
"I know they will say they left because they were afraid of clashes or of being assaulted... but up until now we have had no apology from the police chief."
Police made nine arrests as rioters torched a police station, two garages, a petrol pump and two shops, and pillaged the railway station in neighbouring Arnouville.
Officials said there were reports of "small groups attacking shops, passers-by and car drivers" to rob them. One suspect was arrested carrying jewelry from a looted store.
Sehhouli told AFP the rioting "was not violence but an expression of rage," saying he wanted the police officers "responsible" for the accident to be brought to justice.
Locals said that rampaging youths burned cars to prevent police from entering the area.
Forensic experts were finally able to access the crash site at around midnight. The police vehicle sustained serious damage to the front, although the motorbike was apparently little damaged.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie offered condolences to the victims' families, saying it was "tragic to see the lives of two young people cut short."
The police union Alliance also offered condolences, but said it was "unacceptable for a gang of delinquents to use this tragedy as an excuse to set the town on fire".
"Thugs did not hesitate to use firearms against law enforcement officials," it said.
Police and politicians warned the French suburbs remain a "tinderbox" two years after the 2005 riots, which exposed France's failure to integrate its large black and Arab population, the children and grandchildren of immigrants from its African colonies.
The accidental death of two youths allegedly fleeing police sparked three weeks of nationwide riots in 2005, France's worst social unrest in decades.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, a former interior minister widely reviled in the suburbs for his tough stance on law and order and immigration, has promised a "Marshall Plan" to tackle exclusion and high unemployment in the suburbs. Details are to be announced in January.
But the head of the opposition Socialist Party, Francois Hollande, said Sunday's violence was further proof of the "deep social crisis" gripping the French suburbs.
Subject: French news