Violent protests erupt on French island Mayotte
Looters ransacked a supermarket during a protest over the cost of living Friday in Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean where social discontent has grown in recent weeks.
Groups pillaged stores in Mamoudzou, the island's main city, a few hundred yards from a crowd of around 4,000 gathered to protest against the soaring prices of basic goods, an AFP correspondent reported.
The rally coincided with the visit to the far-flung French department by Secretary of State for Overseas Territories Marie-Luce Penchard.
The junior minister flew in earlier Friday in a bid to resolve the spiralling crisis, which had already led to similar violence since it started on September 27.
She promised to probe profit margins enjoyed by large retailers on the island, one of the main sources of residents' ire.
"Depending on the results of this investigation, I will make sure that measures are taken and, if necessary, sanctions handed down," Penchard said on local television.
She also announced a raft of measures to alleviate the economic pressure on some of the poorer households, including subsidies for basic foodstuffs.
Discontent over food and fuel prices led to a strike organised by the local branches of France's top unions which has all but paralysed the tiny island for three weeks.
Mayotte has a population of around 200,000 and is part of the Comoros archipelago in the southwestern Indian Ocean, between Madagscar and Mozambique.
In 1974, the other three islands in the archipelago acquired their independence from France as the Comoros but Mayotte became a French "collectivity".
On April 1 this year, Mayotte became a fully-fledged French department, with full voting and citizenship rights.
© 2011 AFP