Third night of unrest is calmer in Paris suburbs

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Location of the Val-d'Oise department within France

In a third night of violence, that followed after two teenagers on a motorbike died in a collision with a police patrol vehicle on Sunday night, French authorities are reporting only sporadic clashes in the Val-d'Oise department. However, for the first time, unrest was reported outside of Paris suburbs. The southern city of Toulouse saw at least ten cars torched and a library was set on fire.

Location of Toulouse.

"The situation is much calmer than the two previous nights but we can all feel that it remains fragile," said Prime Minister François Fillon, as Tuesday night saw only minor incidents in Villiers-le-Bel, where the unrest originated on Sunday.

Authorities are saying that the rioting has been more intense than in 2005, albeit less widespread. There have been several reports of hunting rifles and other firearms.

"It's much more violent than in 2005," said Patrick Ribeiro of Synergie police union, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg. "They've shot at us with handguns and hunting rifles. If our officers have to protect their lives, they may have to shoot and that's not what we want."

"Back then, it was more of a revolt. This time, they're after us and they're armed," said Christophe, a police officer, to The Guardian.

"Those who shoot at policemen, those who beat a police officer almost to death are criminals and must be treated as such," PM Fillon told the parliament earlier in the day.

Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie said that the riots were organized and that the street violence by teens was to distract police, while criminals looted shops. She also pledged stronger police presence. "Our goal is to impose calm and to arrest these dangerous individuals who shoot at police," she said.

"I was there yesterday, and I'm going to be there tonight," said a 19-year-old who lives in Villiers-le-Bel where the accident happened and who would not give his name. "We don't think it's a good thing to destroy the shops, but we're in this all together. And we won't stop until justice is made."

Meanwhile, the police reported their initial findings in the investigation into the accident that triggered the unrest. The motorcycle was going at top speed and was not registered for street use, while the two boys were not wearing helmets and had been ignoring traffic rules, according to the report. The two boys have been identified only by their first names. Moushin, 15, and Larami, 16, both died in the accident.

Relatives of the boys insist that the police rammed the motorcycle with their car and then left the boys to die. Residents have said that police gave only cursory help to the accident victims. Police say that an ambulance was on the scene within 10 minutes of the collision.


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