Police killing sparks French riots

Cars set alight and tram attacked after memorial service for suspect shot by police.

    Police say the thieves fled the casino
    with 20,000 to 40,000 Euro [AFP]

    Police said they were forced to intervene early on Saturday after a tram was stopped by a group of about 30 youths armed with baseball bats and iron bars.

    The gang started a fire on the rails and stoned the vehicle, forcing the passengers inside to get out.

    Later dozens of cars were set alight and police used tear gas in an attempt to control the violence. At one point one of the rioters fired a shot and police returned fire, a spokesman said. 

    'Hoodlums and delinquents'

    "I've asked the prefect to use all means to secure the neighbourhood ... for now and for as much time as necessary for calm to return," Hortefeux said during a 15-minute visit to La Villeneuve.

    "You have to realise that in this specific incident, the victim was entirely different than the kids who died as they were running from police [in 2005]"

    Anne-Elisabeth Moutet,
    French political journalist

    "There is a simple and clear reality in this country: there's no future for hoodlums and delinquents because in the end the public authority always wins."

    The trouble followed a hold-up in a casino in nearby Uriage-les-Bains by two armed men in the early hours of Friday.

    As police chased the suspects, they apparently opened fire, wounding an officer.

    In the ensuing shootout with police, one suspect was shot in the head while the second man fled into La Villeneuve, where police helicopters flew overhead for much of the night in an attempt to locate him.

    Jean Philippe, a prosecutor, said the police had acted in self-defence when they killed Karim Boudouda, but an autopsy will be carried out on his body on Saturday.

    Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, a French political journalist, said that Hortefuex's visit could have more to do with the political turmoil in the French government following allegations of illegal donations to the ruling party rather than fears of a repeat of the violence of 2005.

    "I think with the minister of interior, [he] is worried that the tension might be too much with the financial scandal that is rocking France right now, and that anything could distract from it is good thing," she told Al Jazeera.

    Poor suburbs

    The deaths of two teenagers in 2005 touched off almost three weeks of riots across the country, often in the poor suburbs that ring France's major cities.

    About 300 buildings and 10,000 cars were burned, while 130 police and rioters were hurt in the violence .

    The high-rise neighbourhoods, built in the 1950s and 1960s to house a growing population of industrial workers and immigrants, suffer due to high unemployment and poor public services.

    "We can say they are even more disenfranchised than their parents, because their parents came because they had jobs … these kids do not have jobs because they, one, do not have good education and two because there is discrimination," Moutet said.

    "[The government] has tried to create a passageway into jobs without getting the diploma that you get if you go through the French school system. But that is not enough ... it is something that created pockets in which young people ... 40 per cent of them are unemployed."

    But Moutet said it was important to note the differences between the incident in 2005 and the latest death in La Villeneuve.

    "You have to realise that in this specific incident, the victim was entirely different than the kids who died as they were running from police [in 2005]," she said.

    "This is an organised gang that has been robbing a number of casinos in France and Switzerland on either side of the borders, and who shot at the police with automatic weapons. So, we are talking about something slightly different." 

    Police unions have raised concerns about a rise in violent crime spurred by the recession and a resurgence of drug trafficking in some areas.

    "Police are at breaking point," Daniel Chomette, the regional union chief, said as he called for reinforcements.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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