Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Guardian
AUBERVILLIERS, France (AP) - Widespread riots across impoverished areas of France took a malevolent turn in a ninth night of violence, as youths torched an ambulance and stoned medical workers coming to the aid of a sick person. Authorities arrested more than 200 people, an unprecedented sweep since the beginning of the unrest.

Bands of youths also burned a nursery school, warehouses and more than 750 cars overnight as the violence that spread from the restive Paris suburbs to towns around France. The U.S. warned Americans against taking trains to the airport through the affected areas.

At the nursery school in Acheres, west of Paris, part of the roof was caved in, childrens' photos stuck to blackened walls, and melted plastic toys littered the floor.

The town had been previously untouched by the violence. Some residents demanded that the army be deployed, or that citizens rise up and form militias. At the school gate, the mayor tried to calm tempers.

``We are not going to start militias,'' Mayor Alain Outreman said. ``You would have to be everywhere.''

Fires and other incidents were reported in the northern city of Lille, in Toulouse, in the southwest, Rouen, in the west and elsewhere on the second night of unrest in areas beyond metropolitan Paris. An incendiary device was tossed at the wall of a synagogue in Pierrefitte, northwest of Paris, where electricity went out after a burning car damaged an electrical pole.

``This is dreadful, unfortunate. Who did this? Against whom?'' Naima Mouis, a hospital worker in Suresnes, asked while looking at the hulk of her burned-out car.

On Saturday morning, more than 1,000 people took part in a silent march in one of the worst-hit suburbs, Aulnay-sous-Bois, filing past burned-out cars to demand calm. One banner read: ``No to violence.'' Car torchings have become a daily fact in France's tough suburbs, with about 100 each night.

The Interior Ministry operations center reported 754 vehicles burned throughout France from Friday night to Saturday morning - three-quarters of them in the Paris area.

Arrests were also up sharply, with 203 people detained overnight, the center said. By comparison, Interior Ministry Nicolas Sarkozy said Thursday that police had made 143 arrests during the whole first week of unrest.

The violence - sparked after the Oct. 27 accidental electrocution of two teenagers who believed police were chasing them in Seine-Saint-Denis - has laid bare discontent simmering in France's poor suburbs ringing big cities. Those areas are home to large populations of African Muslim immigrants and their children living in low-income housing projects marked by high unemployment, crime and despair.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin oversaw a Cabinet meeting Saturday to evaluate the situation.

The persistence of the violence prompted the American and Russian governments to advise citizens visiting Paris to avoid the suburbs, where authorities were struggling to gain control of the worst rioting in at least a decade.

An attack this week on a woman bus passenger highlighted the savage nature of some of the violence. The woman, in her 50s and on crutches, was doused with an inflammable liquid and set afire after passengers were forced to leave the bus, blocked by burning objects on the road, judicial officials said.

Late Friday in Meaux, east of Paris, youths prevented firefighters from evacuating a sick person from an apartment in a housing project, pelting them with stones and torching the awaiting ambulance, an Interior Ministry officer said. The officer, not authorized to speak publicly, asked not to be named.

``I'm not able to sleep at night because you never know when a fire might break out,'' said Mammed Chukri, 36, a Kurdish immigrant from northern Iraq living near a burned carpet warehouse. ``I have three children and I live in a five-story building. If a fire hit, what would I do?''

A national police spokesman, Patrick Hamon, said there appeared to be no coordination between gangs in the various riot-hit suburbs. He said, however, that neighborhood youths were communicating between themselves using mobile phone text messaging or e-mails to arrange meeting points and alert each other to police
Riots Spread
Nov 3
Seven Nights and Counting

I'm surprised there's been so little comment.

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