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France: Clashes erupt after police kill young man

July 4, 2018

Protesters have set fire to cars and a shopping mall after police shot dead a 22-year-old man in Nantes. A French lawmaker has announced a full investigation into how the man was killed during a traffic stop.

Firefighters work to put out a fire near a burning car
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. S. Gomis

French lawmaker Valerie Oppelt on Wednesday called for calm after police shot and killed a 22-year-old man in Nantes, triggering unrest in several neighborhoods across the western city.

Shortly after news of the man's death emerged, groups of young protesters gathered in the Breil neighborhood. The protesters threw Molotov cocktails and torched at least three vehicles and a shopping center during clashes with police.

Read more: Can Emmanuel Macron's banlieues plan reach the poor?

"Nantes was the scene of violence last night. I appeal for calm. An investigation is under way to learn the circumstances of this tragedy," Oppelt said in a tweet. "My thoughts go out to the residents of the Breil neighborhood."

Map showing where Nantes and Paris are located in France

Local police chief Jean-Christophe Bertrand said the 22-year-old man, whose car had been under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation, was pulled over during a traffic check, but his identity was "not clear and officers received orders to bring the driver to the police station." 

The man, Aboubakar F., then attempted to reverse the vehicle, in the process hitting a police officer in the knee. "One of his colleagues then fired, hitting the young man who unfortunately died," Bertrand said. Local residents dispute official accounts of the incident, calling the shooting "scandalous."  

Nantes police later announced that colleagues in the city of Creteil, near Paris, had issued an arrest warrant for the man in June 2017 for robbery and other crimes. 

Police secure perimeter of shopping mall as firefighters attempt to put out blaze
Protesters torched a shopping mall in the Dervallieres neighborhoodImage: Getty Images/AFP/S. S. Gomis

Police: 'We expect the worst'

Groups of protesters also clashed with police in the Dervallieres and Malakoff neighborhoods, known as sensitive areas in Nantes. "We expect the worst in the coming days," police said, according to the Nantes-based Presse-Ocean newspaper.

Authorities said Nantes police will receive reinforcements to ensure security in the affected neighborhoods.

The protests resembled the civil unrest that erupted in Paris' "banlieues" – low-income migrant neighborhoods on the outskirts of the capital – in 2005 and which has flared up several times since then.

Read more: Emmanuel Macron leaves France's suburbs in the lurch

In 2005, the banlieu of Clichy-sous-Bois became a focal point of violent protests, which erupted in response to the deaths of two boys killed while fleeing police. They highlighted the country's broader difficulties integrating minority groups and ultimately paved the way to the presidency for then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

js,ls/msh (AFP, dpa)

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