French riots called 'urban warfare'

More than 70 police officers injured and dozens of youths arrested in Paris suburbs.

    The riots lasted about six hours and continued into
    the early hours of Tuesday [EPA]
    The rioting in six neighbourhoods north of the French capital was sparked by the deaths on Sunday of two teenagers whose motorbike collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel.
    Tim Friend, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Paris, said some residents claimed the youths were rammed by the police who then drove away, but police say the collision was an accident.


    He said riots only seemed to get worse and that police claimed fire arms were used against them.


    Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, has said that there will be increased security measures in Villiers-le-Bel on Tuesday night.


    "We will not let go," he said.


    "We will fight with all the force the nation is capable of."


    Use of weapons


    Bruno Beschizza, of the police union Synergie, said the violence was "worse than in the riots of 2005" - which were also triggered by the deaths of two youths in the northern Paris suburbs.


    He said officers were "confronted with scenes of real urban guerrilla warfare.


    "Things have gone to a new level with the use of weapons including a hunting rifle. Petrol bombs have become the norm, and now we've got this new element to take into account," he said.


    Michele Alliot-Marie, the French interior minister, said: "Police officers were targeted with hunting weapons.


    "A certain number of them were wounded by lead shot. This is totally unacceptable."


    Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president who is currently in China, has appealed for calm.


    Buildings torched


    In Villiers, around 100 youths, crouching behind trash cans, hurled objects at 160 riot police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas on Monday night.

    The riots lasted about six hours and continued into the early hours of Tuesday.


    Young rioters in the nearby towns of Sarcelles, Garges-les-Gonesse, Cergy, Ermont and Goussainville were armed with petrol bombs, bottles filled with acid and baseball bats, police said.


    Police said on Tuesday that of the more than 70 officers injured in the latest clashes, five were in critical condition.


    "One policeman was wounded in the shoulder after being hit by a high-calibre bullet," a security official said.


    As many as 63 vehicles and five buildings had been torched and a bus,    which had no passengers on board, and a truck were set alight in    districts near Villiers, police said.


    Police said six people were arrested.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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