Paris suburbs flare again

Rioters have clashed with police in two poor suburbs of Paris for a second night as authorities arrested a youth whose injury, along with the death of two friends, caused rioting last year.

    Rioters torched a police car

    Muhittin Altun was detained late on Tuesday in Clichy-sous-Bois, a neighbourhood northeast of Paris that was the epicentre of last year's disturbances.


    Police said the 18-year-old had been throwing stones at a police car. His lawyer denied the charge.


    Jean-Pierre Mignard said: "Muhittin Altun is being held on pathetic charges - throwing a rock - which he vehemently denies. We are convinced of his innocence.


    "He was arrested in front of his home. We are stupefied that his arrest is taking place a day before a critical judicial proceeding." He was referring to a visit Altun was to make on Wednesday with investigating magistrates to the sub-station where he had suffered burns.


    Police attacked


    Altun was alleged to have joined in the fresh wave of rioting as it spread from nearby Montfermeil, where gangs attacked a police station, set cars on fire and threw stones at public buildings.


    Police said four officers were wounded at the police station and five youths were arrested.


    A day earlier, seven officers were reported injured and three  youths arrested.


    After the first outbreak of clashes late on Monday, when  Montfermeil's town hall and mayor's home were attacked, a 250-man contingent was dispatched to quell the unrest.




    A policeman leaves his car to
    escape tear gas thrown inside

    Through the night on Tuesday, a helicopter with a spotlight monitored the neighbourhood, seeking new flare-ups.


    Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, said late on Tuesday that he would clamp down on any further violence.


    "I won't let chaos be stirred up anywhere in France", he said.


    The unrest last year was initially caused by the electrocution on October 27 of Bouna Traore, a 15-year-old of Malian background, and Zyed Benna, a 17-year-old of Tunisian origin. Altun escaped death but was injured. He said that they had entered an electricity sub-station because they were being chased by police. The police deny this.


    Youths in the suburb, after learning of the deaths, went on a  rampage that spread around most of France's big cities and towns, and prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.


    The riots quickly spread to areas with high immigrant populations, fuelled by anger at racial discrimination, a lack of  educational and employment prospects and police harassment.


    After three weeks of unrest across the country, the final toll  rose to 10,000 vehicles burnt and more than 3,200 people  arrested.




    The municipal authorities in Montfermeil blamed the flare-up in violence this week on the "heavy-handed" arrest of a woman from the Bosquets estate whose son was wanted in connection with a robbery.


    "We are at a point that is even worse than a dead end"

    Michel Wieviorka, a French sociologist

    Prosecutors confirmed that incidents broke out between youths and police after a woman and her son were taken into custody on Monday.


    Regional authorities of the Seine-Saint-Denis prefecture denied that the events were linked to the riots in November, describing them as "sporadic incidents which, unfortunately, regularly accompany the work of police officers".


    A Greens politician, Noel Mamere, said that after last year's riots, France had simply put "the lid on the pot" of its troubled suburbs.


    ''But it is still boiling and the fire can start again with the slightest spark,'' he said.


    Michel Wieviorka, a sociologist, said: "Nothing has been fixed and things are getting worse." He said France's model of racial integration is "totally broken down".


    "We are at a point that is even worse than a dead end," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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