Paris police braced for fresh violence
POLICE reinforcements were drafted into the troubled Paris suburbs yesterday as authorities prepared for a third night of violent unrest after 80 police officers were injured in running battles with hooded youths and government buildings were torched on Monday night.
The trouble followed the deaths of two teenagers of Algerian origin, whose motorbike collided with a police car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, 12 miles north of the capital.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, is due to hold an emergency security meeting this morning following his return from an official three-day visit to China last night, from where he had appealed for calm.
Franois Fillon, France's prime minister, described those involved in the rioting as "criminals" and paid tribute to the police, whom he said "had an extremely difficult night".
Mr Fillon added: "Those who shoot at police are criminals and will be treated as such."
Rioting began shortly after the youths died in what was apparently an accident when their unlicensed Kawasaki motorbike smashed into a police patrol car at high speed on Sunday afternoon.
The French government has launched an official investigation into the youths' deaths, which initially appeared to confirm the police officers' version of events. Neither of the two youths, Larami, 16 and Moushin, 15, were wearing helmets.
However, Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the victims, accused police of ramming the motorbike and of fleeing the scene.
Some 40 police officers were hurt and nine people were arrested on Sunday night as rioters, who claimed to be avenging the teenagers' deaths, torched a police station, two garages, a petrol pump and two shops, and raided a railway station in neighbouring Arnouville.
Rioting continued on Monday evening, spreading to six neighbourhoods north of Paris which were also the scene of major unrest in 2005, triggering fears that the violence could follow the same course as two years ago and spread nationwide.
The 2005 riots lasted for three weeks, during which time 10,000 vehicles were torched and 300 buildings were firebombed. The previous violence erupted after two youths were electrocuted and died while hiding from police in a sub-station in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.
Douhane Mohamed, of the Synergie police union, said: "Two things are cause for anxiety - signs that the violence is spreading to neighbouring areas and the almost systematic use of firearms against police."
More than 80 police officers were injured in Monday night's unrest, five of them critically.
Police said some officers suffered bullet wounds, while others were hurt by stones, fireworks and petrol bombs.
In Villiers, about 100 youths hurled objects at 160 riot police, who fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Young rioters in the nearby towns of Sarcelles, Garges-les-Gonesse, Cergy, Ermont and Goussainville were armed with baseball bats, petrol bombs and bottles filled with acid, police said.
Michele Alliot-Marie, France's interior minister, said the riots were organised and criminals were using youngsters to lure police away while they raided shops. There have also been reports that children as young as ten are acting as lookouts while a youth with a scanner tuned to police frequencies has enabled rioters to keep one step ahead of the authorities.
Bruno Beschizza, of Synergie, said officers were being "confronted with scenes of real urban guerrilla warfare".
He added: "Things have gone to a new level with the use of weapons, including a hunting rifle. Petrol bombs have become the norm, and now we've got this new element to take into account."
A spokesperson for UNSA, another police union, added: "We are getting close to a catastrophe with the use of firearms against police."
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