Vehicle arson largely a French phenomenon

31st October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) - The targeting of vehicles by marauding gangs of youths is pretty much a French phenomenon in Europe, according to officials in various countries.

PARIS, Oct 30, 2006 (AFP) - The targeting of vehicles by marauding gangs of youths is pretty much a French phenomenon in Europe, according to officials in various countries.

French authorities are currently grappling with a wave of bus torchings — including one on the weekend that left a badly burned woman on the verge of death — that is adding to the "normal" arson count of around 70-100 vehicles each night.

Nine buses were incinerated last week, seven of them in the Paris region. The spate of attacks coincided with the first anniversary of the 2005 suburban riots that gripped France — a three-week orgy of violence that left 10,000 vehicles smoking wrecks.

Although French police are insisting that, despite the latest attacks, the situation was "relatively calm", Le Monde newspaper said that 277 vehicles have been set alight over the past few days. Officials have refused to confirm or deny the figure.

Most of the incidents in France are linked to suburban unrest among youths in high-immigrant, high-unemployment neighbourhoods. Some, though, are cases of insurance fraud or theft.

In Britain, theft is the main cause attributed to the thousands of arson attacks on vehicles there, according to officials. The latest figures, from 2004, showed 50,000 cars, trucks and buses were set on fire.

Rioting, in contrast, does not usually involve vehicle burning, as illustrated by the October 2005 clashes in Birmingham, when one person died and 40 people were injured but no cars were targeted.

In Germany, there are few examples of cars bearing the fiery brunt of urban disgruntlement, beyond some copycat torchings that occurred during the French riots.

Spanish unrest is mostly limited to the Catalan region around Barcelona and the separatist Basque region to the north. While flames often fly in the form of Molotov cocktails, and some hit empty buses, many are thrown at political party offices, cash machines and court houses.

A Belgian police spokeswoman, Eels Clemput, said car burnings in her country were "in general to get rid of prints after a bank robbery or theft." On the weekend, for example, six cars were torched in a northern Brussels suburb after thieves made off with their GPS units and radios.

In Greece, a small hardcore group of anarchists occasionally set fire to cars belonging to the police or media organisations during major street protests.

In the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland, the phenomenon is practically unknown — at least for now.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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