Youth, police clashes spread to several Paris suburbs

2nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 2 (AFP) - Gangs of youths in towns around Paris clashed with police and torched cars and trash cans on Tuesday night as violence that has plagued one poor suburb for almost a week spread around the French capital, police and local authorities said Wednesday.

PARIS, Nov 2 (AFP) - Gangs of youths in towns around Paris clashed with police and torched cars and trash cans on Tuesday night as violence that has plagued one poor suburb for almost a week spread around the French capital, police and local authorities said Wednesday.

The epicentre of the trouble, which first erupted last Thursday following the deaths of two teenagers, is the poor northeastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in the Seine-Saint-Denis department.

Police sources reported some 60 vehicles torched throughout the Seine-Saint-Denis area overnight.

In the towns of Aulnay-sous-Bois and Sevran, gangs of stone-throwing youths were met by police firing disabling rubber 'flash-balls' to disperse them.

"It's a rough night," a departmental spokesman said.

There was less trouble overnight in Clichy-sous-Bois itself -- which has a large immigrant and Muslim population -- partly due to the heavy police presence there.

But more worryingly for the security forces, there were pockets of similar trouble for the first time in several other departments ringing Paris.

Cars were torched and police reported sporadic incidents involving groups of youths in Val-d'Oise to the north of the capital and Seine-et-Marne to the southeast with lesser violence reported in Yvelines to the west.

French government leaders came under fire Tuesday for their handling of the unrest.

The main opposition Socialists accused president Jacques Chirac and prime minister Dominique de Villepin of an "inexcusable" silence over the violence.

But most of their anger was directed toward Nicolas Sarkozy, the ambitious interior minister and would-be president, whose tough rhetoric on urban crime has aroused charges of pandering to the far right.

"When an interior minister doesn't hesitate to use insulting terms, branding as 'rabble' communities which have the misfortune to be fragile and wanting to turn water-cannon on them, it is the image of the country that is tarnished," the Socialist Party said in a statement.

Sarkozy, who is also leader of France's ruling UMP party, vowed to wage a "war without mercy" on crime in the Paris suburbs a week before the rampages began.

The violence in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, erupted after two youths, aged 15 and 19, were electrocuted after scaling the wall of a relay station and touching a transformer.

The local public prosecutor, François Molins, said the boys thought they were being chased by police, but authorities denied that was the case.

A judicial enquiry has been opened to determine the sequence of events leading up to the electrocution deaths of the two youths last week, which first sparked the violence.

Some 30 official and youth leaders met with Sarkozy late Tuesday to discuss the situation.

The ministry said that participants had considered the growing concern over poor living conditions in the worst-off suburbs where "the residents encounter serious problems".

Sarkozy spoke of the need for "considerable efforts and promised town mayors help in "effecting the best responses" in particular in the areas of unemployment, education and infrastructure.

Suburbs auch as Clichy-sous-Bois suffer from unemployment rates over twice the national average, which is already relatively high at around 10 percent.

At least Tuesday night's violence included less of the direct clashes between youths and police seen on previous nights in Clichy-sous-Bois, police and municipal sources said.

Along with the dozens of torched vehicles, a carpet warehouse was set ablaze in another Seine-Saint-Denis town overnight, but no one was hurt.

One group of youths hurled stones at a fire station in nearby Aulnay-sous-Bois.

Elsewhere several people were slightly hurt in three towns in the Val d'Oise area, north of Paris, in scuffles between police and youths. Several trash cans were set on fire in those incidents.

In the southeastern department of Seine-et-Marne there were reports of two cars torched while a social centre was also set on fire. There were several arrests, including three youths found carrying incendiary devices.

In Yvelines the trouble was less serious, with police reporting trash cans set on fire and gangs of up to 50 youths roaming the streets.

One policeman was slightly injured after being hit by a missile, in the Seine-Saint-Denis town of Gagny.

Calm was restored by around 1:30am after police had made 10 arrests throughout the department.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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