Rioting youths also hurled Molotov cocktails at churches, schools, cars and a daycare centre, while President Jacques Chirac promised on Sunday to arrest and punish those who "sow violence or fear".


Aljazeera's correspondent in Paris, Michele al-Kik, reports that the targeting of the churches follows allegations that French police fired teargas at a mosque in an area north of Paris.

Al-Kik said French officials fear the riots may take on an ethnic or religious aspect.

 

Ten riot police officers were injured by fine-grain birdshot in a clash with rioters late on Sunday in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, with two of them were hospitalised, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said.

The two officers' lives were not in danger.
 
Vehicles torched

Overnight Sunday-Monday, 764 vehicles were torched, while police made 173 arrests, Hamon's office said.

The situation was calm in Paris, where violence broke out the previous night, the local prefecture said.

Firefighters have had to deal with
up to 1000 torched vehicles 

"The law must have the last word," Chirac said on Sunday after a security meeting with top ministers, making his first public address on the riots.

 

France is determined "to be stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear, and they will be arrested, judged and punished", he said.

 

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin promised speeded trials for rioters and additional security during France's worst civil unrest in a decade.

 

Disdain

From an outburst of anger in suburban Paris housing projects, the violence has fanned out into a nationwide show of disdain for authority from youths, including the children of Arabs and sub-Saharan Africans angered by high unemployment, poor housing and discrimination.

 

The president said France would promote "respect for all, justice and equal opportunities". But the priority is "restoring security and public order", he said.

 

Arsonists burned two schools and a bus in the central city of Saint-Etienne and its suburbs, and two people were injured in the bus attack.

Churches were set ablaze in northern Lens and southern Sete, police spokesman Hamon said.

 

Arrests

In Colombes in suburban Paris, youths threw rocks at a bus, injuring a 13-month-old child, Hamon said. In another Paris suburb, Saint-Maurice, a daycare centre burned.

 

Police have detained almost 1000
people since the riots broke out

In Strasbourg, youths stole a car and rammed it into a housing project, setting the vehicle and the building on fire.

 

Nearly 1000 people have been arrested since the violence broke out, he said.

 

Much of the youths' anger has focused on law-and-order Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as "scum".

 

"We'll stop when Sarkozy steps down," said the defiant 17-year-old driver, who gave his name only as Murat.

 

Under arrest, he and several others awaited a ride to the police station as smoke poured from the windows of the housing project behind them.

 

Order vowed

 

The tough-talking interior minister said police must restore law and order to France, or gangs and extremists would fill the void.

 

Sarkozy, in calling rioters 'scum',
is accused of inflaming passions

"We will take the time we need, but order must return," Sarkozy said.

 

Overnight Saturday-Sunday, youths set ablaze nearly 1300 vehicles and torched businesses, schools and symbols of French authority, including post offices and provincial police stations.

 

That was a sharp rise from the 897 vehicles incinerated the night before.

 

Solution

The violence has prompted soul-searching about how to ease fear, anger and frustration among troubled youths in the grim public-housing estates on the outskirts of French cities, where many residents are minorities.

Educators met the French prime minister to think of ways to help.

 

A firefighter in Aubervilliers douses
the remains of a burned warehouse

"These are young people who are generally resigned, they face discrimination everywhere, for housing and work, and their malaise gets expressed in violence," said Ahmed Touabi, principal of an elementary school in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil.

 

The troublemakers "feel rejected by France, and they want to spit on France".

 

Cars burned in Germany

 

Five cars were set alight in a working-class area of the German capital, Berlin, overnight Sunday, and police said it was a possible attempt to copy Frency violence.

 

The cars were spread over five streets of the Moabit area of Berlin and were torched early Monday morning.

 

A police spokesman told AFP that "it could not be ruled out" that the attacks had been prompted by the violence in France.

 

No one was hurt in the incidents, and police were looking for the perpetrators.