French Riots Claim First Victim | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.11.2005
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French Riots Claim First Victim

One man has died as a result of injuries sustained during ongoing riots in France. Rampaging youths also injured 30 policemen and torched hundreds of cars overnight Sunday.


More than 1,400 cars have been torched by rioting youngsters

After 11 nights of violence, France's worst riots in decades have claimed their first victim: A 60-year-old man, who was beaten by youngsters on Friday, has died, his wife said, according to news reports. The man had tried to prevent rioters from torching a garbage container in Stains near Paris.

Police meanwhile said Monday that 1,408 vehicles were torched and 395 arrests were made during rioting across France overnight -- the highest figures recorded since the troubles broke out on Oct. 27.

Two riot squad officers were hit by buckshot fired at them in an "ambush" in suburbs south of Paris, police said.

Elsewhere, club-wielding gangs roaming low-income neighborhoods on the outskirts of major cities targeted officers and set fire to scores of vehicles and properties.

Unruhen in Frankreich

Fighting the flames near Paris

A 3,000 square metre building housing film studios was torched at Asnieres beside the Seine river, with flames 10 meters (30 feet) high threatening a neighboring warehouse. Nearly 100 firemen with 25 appliances were fighting the blaze "of criminal origin," police said.

Two churches, one in the north and one in the south of the country, were hit by firebombs but little damage was caused.

Worst violence since 1968

The violence -- the worst the country has seen since 1968 student revolts -- continued despite increasingly tough reactions from police, who have arrested more than 800 people since the troubles began.

Many schools, creches and police stations came under attack, with one police station in Clermont Ferrand burnt out.

Chirac said "the absolute priority is restoring security and public order," after chairing an emergency meeting with key ministers Sunday evening.

Der französische Staatspräsident Jacques Chirac äußert sich erstmals zu den Krawallen in Frankreich

French President Jacques Chirac

"Those who want to sow violence of fear, they will be arrested, judged and punished," he promised, adding that "certain decisions" had been taken to boost the police and court decisions during the crisis.

In the western city of Rouen, a car was used as a battering ram against a police station, while in Toulouse, in the south, police had to fire tear gas grenades to push back a mob carrying baseball bats and throwing stones and bottles.

"These individuals seem to be looking for contact with police, and they are attacking us, unlike during the other nights," a senior officer told AFP.

Arsonists also set fire to cars and trash cans in the cities of Nantes, Orleans and Rennes.

A new edge to riots

The new edge to the violence confirmed the riots were worsening, adding to a weekend that took the unrest to new heights with hundreds of vehicles burnt and up to 200 localities affected.

So far, around 4,000 vehicles have been torched, including, overnight Sunday, eight trucks parked near the town of Roanne. Schools and businesses were also set alight in various places around the country.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who attended the emergency meeting with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and the ministers for defense, justice, the economy and education, said more police would be deployed wherever required.

There will be "a reinforcement of security forces anywhere in the country if it is necessary," he said. "We will not accept any lawless zone."

So far, no one has been killed in the unrest, which was sparked Oct. 27 by the electrocution deaths of two teenagers who hid in an electrical sub-station in northeastern Paris to escape a police identity check.

Unruhen in Frankreich Clichy

Bus services were shut down after rioters set an occupied one on fire

But some of the injuries have been serious. At least two people have been badly burnt by Molotov cocktails: a fireman who had his face disfigured and a handicapped woman doused with fuel on an ambushed bus.

A 61-year-old was also in a coma after being hit by an assailant in a public housing estate, and a South Korean female TV reporter was kicked unconscious by assailants in a northern suburb on Saturday.

Copy cats in Bremen, Berlin?

Meanwhile, in the northern German city of Bremen, youths started a series of fires Sunday night but police said they saw no connection with the riots in France.

Police said in a statement that four blazes targeting sites including a car dealership and a condemned former school building caused "tens of thousands of euros" (dollars) in damage. No one was injured.

But spokesman Heiner Melloh said that authorities did not believe there was a link to the riots in France, although he could not rule out a "copycat effect."

Bremen Rathaus

Bremen's not known for rioting

"The main difference from Paris is that there was no open confrontation" with police, Melloh said.

Melloh said none of the suspects had been captured and that arson attacks were "rather unusual" in Bremen.

He described the district of Huchting where the blazes took place as "a completely normal residential neighborhood" with a relatively low crime rate.

In Berlin's Moabit district, people also set five cars on fire and a police spokesman said that authorities were investigating any links to the France riots.

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