Youths Riot for Second Night in Paris Suburb

Laure Bretton, Reuters, Oct. 29

Hundreds of French youths fought with police and set cars ablaze in a Paris suburb on Saturday in a second night of rioting which media said was triggered when two teenagers were electrocuted while fleeing police.

The teenagers were killed and a third seriously injured on Thursday night when they were electrocuted in an electricity sub station as they ran away from police investigating a break-in, media reported.

Firefighters intervened around 40 times on Friday night in the northeastern suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where many of the 28,000 residents are immigrants, mainly from Africa, police and fire officers said.

Unidentified youths fired a shot at police but no one was hurt, police said.

“It’s not normal that these two die like that,” one teenage boy wearing a hooded sweatshirt told French television, referring to the two dead boys, which media identified as 15-year-old Banou and 17-year-old Ziad.

Television pictures showed youths lobbing stones at police officers while cars burned on the streets of the suburb. Police in riot gear chased some youths down an alleyway.

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“There’s a civil war under way in Clichy-Sous-Bois at the moment,” Michel Thooris from Action Police CFTC, said. “My colleagues neither have the equipment nor the practical nor theoretical training for street fighting.”

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France’s Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to step up security after violence flared for a fourth night in a Paris suburb.

Six policemen were hurt and 11 people arrested in the latest clashes with youths in Clichy-sous-Bois, although it was calmer than on previous nights.

Police said somebody not yet identified had fired tear gas into a mosque.

Mr Sarkozy spoke to police in Clichy and is due to meet the parents of two youths whose deaths sparked the riots.

On Saturday, hundreds of mourners paid homage to the teenagers by holding a peaceful procession in the north-eastern suburb, which has a large immigrant population.

Tough response

The authorities have denied rumours that policemen were chasing the two boys, who were electrocuted on Thursday after entering an electricity sub-station.

Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died.

An official investigation into the boys’ deaths is under way.

A third young man is seriously ill in hospital.

The BBC’s Alasdair Sandford in Paris says many in the suburb do not believe the authorities’ account that the two boys were not being chased by police.

Mr Sarkozy has promised to send special police units into difficult suburbs around France to stamp out violence.

Residents will be given “the security they have a right to”, he said while speaking to senior police officers in Clichy.

He promised to find out who had hurled one or more tear gas canisters into a mosque on Sunday night, but added “that does not mean that it was fired by a police officer”.

Rumours that the tear gas was thrown by the police into a place of worship fuelled the unrest.

Mr Sarkozy also met the president of the Muslim community in the Clichy area.

Local people in Clichy have accused Mr Sarkozy of heightening tensions by using inflammatory language.

During Saturday’s march in memory of the dead teenagers, there were calls for the government to tackle discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs.

Mr Sarkozy told police on Monday that “for 30 years the situation has been getting worse in a number of neighbourhoods”.

“It’s not a story that’s three days, three weeks or three months old,” he said.

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