New Waves of Arson Attacks Hit Paris Suburbs; Unrest Spreads to Other Towns

Jamedy Keaten, AP, Nov. 4

LE BLANC MESNIL, France—Small, mobile groups of youths hit Paris’ riot-shaken suburbs with waves of arson attacks, torching hundreds of cars as weeklong ethnic unrest continued and spread to other French towns.

In the eastern city of Dijon, teens apparently angered by a police crackdown on drug trafficking in their neighbourhood set fire to five cars, said Paul Ronciere, the region’s top government official. Another 11 cars were burned at a housing project in Salon-de-Provence, near the southern city of Marseille, police said.

Overnight in the Paris region, 420 cars were set ablaze, up from previous nights, the Interior Ministry said. It said five police were slightly injured by thrown stones or bottles.

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“The peak is now behind us,” said Gerard Gaudron, mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, one of the worst-hit towns. He told France-Info radio that parents were determined to keep teenagers home to prevent unrest.

“People have had enough,” said Gaudron. “People are afraid. It’s time for this to stop.”

The rioting started Oct. 27, after youths were angered over the deaths of two teenagers—Bouna Traore, 15, and Zyed Benna, 17. They were electrocuted in a power substation where they hid, thinking police were chased them.

Traore’s brother, Siyakah Traore, on Friday urged protesters to “calm down and stop ransacking everything.”

“This is not how we are going to have our voices heard,” he said on RTL radio.

Car torchings are a daily fact of life in France’s tough suburbs, with thousands burned each month, police say. Police intelligence has recorded nearly 70,000 incidents of urban violence this year, including attacks on police and rescue services, arson, throwing projectiles, clashes between gangs, joy-riding and property destruction, Le Monde reported.

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Paris—Gangs of youths torched more than 500 cars overnight in the worst of eight straight nights of street violence in the Paris region, and police arrested 78 people, officials said on Friday.

In one of the most serious incidents since the clashes began, a handicapped woman on board a bus was doused with petrol and set on fire late on Wednesday, suffering severe burns, prosecutors said.

Worst hit on Thursday, as on previous nights, was the Seine-Saint-Denis region north and east of the capital, where 205 cars were set ablaze, and the overall arson figure of 519 vehicles was the worst since the unrest began.

Trouble was reported in almost 90 towns around the capital, more than twice as many as the previous night, according to police, who said rioters had been crossing into new neighbourhoods to evade police deployments.

Arsonists attacked a number of official buildings across the Paris region, including a post office, a bus depot, a primary school, a courthouse, a city hall and a police station.

The handicapped woman was on a bus in the northern suburb of Sevran when youths threw a Molotov cocktail on board. All the other passengers evacuated, but she was unable to get off in time.

According to the prosecutors, one youth doused the woman with petrol before others threw a flaming rag inside the vehicle.

The rioting, which began after the accidental deaths of two youths who hid in an electrical sub-station at Clichy-sous-Bois to escape a police identity check, is the worst France has seen since troubles broke out in the deprived, high-immigration neighbourhoods in the late 1980s.

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