Wed, Nov 09, 2005 - Page 1 News List

France orders emergency curfews


France's Cabinet authorized curfews under a state-of-emergency law yesterday, in an extraordinary measure to halt the country's worst civil unrest in decades after violence raged for a 12th night.

Rioters in the southern city of Toulouse ordered passengers off a bus and then set it on fire and pelted police with gasoline bombs and rocks. Youths also torched another bus in the northeastern Paris suburb of Stains, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said.

On Monday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said police reservists would be deployed as reinforcements to help end the rioting that has spread from Paris' suburbs to over 200 cities and towns -- bringing the total deployment to 9,500. After the Cabinet authorization, local officials "will be able to impose curfews on the areas where this decision applies," President Jacques Chirac announced. "It is necessary to accelerate the return to calm."

The decree allowing curfews were to become effective at midnight yesterday, government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said, adding that there would be an initial 12-day limit to the state-of-emergency measures.

Nationwide, vandals burned 1,173 cars overnight from Monday to yesterday compared to 1,408 vehicles a night earlier, police said. A total of 330 people were arrested, down from 395 the night before.

"The intensity of this violence is on the way down," National Police Chief Michel Gaudin told a news conference, adding that there were "much fewer" attacks on public buildings, and fewer direct clashes between youths and police. He said rioting was reported in 226 towns across France, compared to nearly 300 the night before.

Outside the capital in Sevran, a junior high school was set ablaze, while in another Paris suburb, Vitry-sur-Seine, youths threw gasoline bombs at a hospital, Hamon said. No one was injured.

However, Hamon said there was a "considerable decrease" in the number of incidents overnight Monday through last night from the night before in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris.

Asked on TF1 television whether the army should be brought in, Villepin said "we are not at that point." But "at each step, we will take the necessary measures to re-establish order very quickly throughout France," he said.

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