Sixth teenager arrested in burning bus attack

2nd November 2006, Comments 0 comments

MARSEILLE, France, Nov 3, 2006 (AFP) - French police Friday arrested a teenager and held four others in custody as they stepped up a criminal investigation into a weekend bus arson attack that left a woman fighting for her life.

MARSEILLE, France, Nov 3, 2006 (AFP) - French police Friday arrested a teenager and held four others in custody as they stepped up a criminal investigation into a weekend bus arson attack that left a woman fighting for her life.

The minor arrested in a dawn raid on a housing estate near the site of the Saturday night attack in the southern city of Marseille was the sixth to be seized by authorities.

Five other teenagers, aged 15 and 17, have already been arrested in connection with the attack.

Four were placed under criminal investigation Thursday — one step short of charges being laid — and are in custody.

The fifth, a 15-year-old, was freed but will appear in court later as an "assisted witness".

Officials said all the teenagers arrested had records for delinquency.

The bus attack was the worst incident in a flare-up of violence coinciding with the first anniversary of the 2005 riots in mainly-immigrant suburbs around France.

A gang stopped a public bus and some members boarded it, doused it with petrol while the passengers were still inside and set it alight.

All the passengers escaped except one, a 26-year-old French university student of Senegalese origin, Mama Galledou.

She suffered severe burns to 62 percent of her body and remains in a Marseille hospital in an induced coma, with her family by her side.

Her cousin, Ousmane Diagana, told reporters Friday her condition was improving according to medical staff.

He added that, despite the horrific injuries inflicted by the attackers, "the family has no anger nor hate nor any ill-will, and has full confidence in the French legal system."

He said Galledou's relatives did not wish to comment on the arrests and police investigation.

"More than anything we call for the privacy (of Galledou) to be respected," and for the family to be spared excessive media attention because her relatives needed peace "to pray for her so as to help her pull through."

Marseille's state prosecutor, Jacques Beaume, said the four under formal investigation were accused of "voluntary arson which caused disability or permanent injury".

Three of them have admitted participation in the attack, he told reporters late Thursday.

If Galledou dies, any suspects convicted could face life imprisonment. If she survives — in which case she would be maimed and disfigured — they could go to jail for 30 years.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has said he wants to see the suspects tried as adults and for exemplary punishment to be handed down to any found guilty.

The hospital treating Galledou said she was in a stable condition, but it was still too early to say whether she would survive her injuries. Her family was by her side.

Several dozen local residents held a protest rally Thursday in the Marseille neighbourhood where the youths were arrested, accusing the police of acting "like the Gestapo" and Sarkozy of exploiting the case for media attention.

Sarkozy is aiming to become the right-wing's candidate in France's 2007 presidential election and has long advocated tough law and order policies.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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