Two teenagers aged 15 and 16 riding a stolen motorcycle were killed in a collision with a police vehicle in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday, triggering the unrest.

 

Police said there were reports of looting and of "small groups attacking shops, passers-by and car drivers".

 

Firemen doused flames that engulfed a garage in Villiers before it could spread to a neighbouring garage and a nearby petrol station.

 

Tense situation

 

Nicolas Carrier, the mayor's chief of staff, told Reuters: "The situation is tense tonight. We do not know how it will evolve during the night."

 

French television showed burning rubbish bins and the charred wreckage of a car at the scene, while witnesses said they saw Molotov cocktails being prepared.

 

At least seven policemen and a fireman were injured in the incident, a local official said, adding that a youth has been arrested for suspected robbery.

 

In November 2005, two immigrant youths fleeing the police in Clichy-Sous-Bois a suburb northeast of Paris died after being electrocuted in an electrical sub-station, sparking the worst urban unrest France had seen in 40 years.

 

But a police union source said the circumstances in Sunday's case were different.

 

"It was not a chase but apparently a traffic accident," he said.