A week of suburban violence in France showed no sign of abating Friday after an eighth night of clashes and car-burning which for the first time spread beyond the capital.
Young people rampage in the suburbs
Police said some 400 cars were torched by rioters, mostly in the Paris outskirts, where night-time confrontations with police have raged since Oct. 27, but some also in Dijon, eastern France, Marseille to the south and Normandy in the north.
Arsonists set fire to five businesses in the Seine-Saint-Denis district north and east of Paris city centre, completely destroying a large warehouse containing carpets and flooring material at the Garonord industrial zone near Charles de Gaulle airport.
At Trappes, to the southwest of Paris, a spectacular fire gutted a bus depot, with 27 vehicles inside destroyed. Witnesses told Europe 1 radio that flames shot 50 meters (160 feet) into the air with repeated explosions.
Five officers were slightly hurt by flying objects as rioters once again stoned police and fire services in several neighbourhoods, and at Neuilly-sur-Marne to the east of Paris buckshot was fired at vans belonging to the CRS riot squad.
Teen deaths sparked riots
Firefighters stand by a wrecked bus in a Paris suburb on Thursday
The rioting, which began after the accidental deaths of two youths hiding in an electrical sub-station at Clichy-sous-Bois to escape a police identity check, is the worst France has seen since the first troubles broke out in deprived, high-immigration neighbourhoods in the late 1980s.
Those responsible are mainly groups of young Muslim men who have said in interviews that they are protesting against economic misery,
racial discrimination and provocative policing.
Small-scale suburban violence is a regular but little reported fact of life in many poor areas on the outskirts of major French cities. According to the police intelligence service RG a total of
28,000 cars have been burned across the country this year -- even before the latest outbreak.
Rattling the government
The riots are a direct challenge to French Prime Minister de Villepin, and Interior Minister Sarkozy
The violence has badly rattled the government of President Jacques Chirac, which is wavering between the "zero tolerance" policies of the hardline Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and calls for a more conciliatory approach to take account of the rioters' grievances.
Speaking on French television Thursday evening, Sarkozy said that the violence was being orchestrated by unknown organizers.
"What we have been witnessing ... has nothing spontaneous about it. It was perfectly organized. We are trying to find out by who and
how," he said.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Thursday vowed before parliament that authorities "will not give in" to the violence and would make restoring order their "absolute top priority".
"I will not allow organized gangs to make the law in the suburbs," he declared.
France has 751 neighborhoods officially classed as severely disadvantaged, housing a total of five million people, around 8 percent of the population.
Many of France's estimated five million Muslims live in those suburbs. Thursday night was the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a night traditionally marked by feasts and family get-togethers.