Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Use of guns ups stakes in Paris riots

AP , VILLIERS-LE-BEL, FRANCE

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, third left, and Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, second left, visit a burned car sales showroom yesterday in Villiers-le-Bel, outside Paris, after a second night of rioting by youths.

PHOTO: AFP

Rampaging youths rioted in Paris' suburbs for a second night, setting fire to dozens of cars and buildings. At least 77 officers were injured, and officers were fired at, officials said yesterday.

The overnight violence was more intense than during three weeks of rioting in 2005, said Patrice Ribeiro, a senior police union official. He said the rioters had included "genuine urban guerillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons."

The violence was triggered by the deaths on Sunday of two teens in a crash with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town in Paris' northern suburbs.

Residents claimed that the officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.

Rioting first erupted in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday night. It grew worse and spread on Monday night to other towns north of Paris. Rioters hurled stones and gasoline bombs at police, authorities said.

The use of firearms added a dangerous new dimension. Guns were rarely used in the 2005 riots that spread to poor housing projects nationwide.

Police are facing "a situation that is far worse than that of 2005," said Ribeiro, national secretary of the Synergie officers union.

"Our colleagues will not allow themselves to be fired upon indefinitely without responding," he warned on RTL radio. "They will be placed in situations which will become untenable."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is on a visit to China. He appealed from there for calm and called a security meeting with his ministers when he returns home today.

On Monday night, youths were seen firing buckshot at police and reporters. A police union official said a round from a hunting rifle pierced the body armor of one officer, who suffered a serious shoulder wound. Ribeiro said 77 officers were injured.

In Villiers-le-Bel, arsonists set fire to the municipal library and burned books littered its floor. Shops and businesses were also attacked and more than 70 vehicles were torched, authorities said. Violence was also reported in four other towns north of Paris.

Also See: Crime wave hits Champs-Elysees area

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