Sun, Nov 13, 2005 - Page 6 News List

French unrest now worst in the provinces: police

AP , PARIS

The number of cars torched overnight in France climbed slightly, to 502 compared with 463 the previous day, in a 16th night of unrest that took its heaviest toll on the French provinces, police said yesterday.

But security was boosted in the capital with some 3,000 police officers fanning out around strategic points to counter feared weekend attacks targeting Paris. Gatherings were banned from yesterday until this morning.

"We returned to an almost normal situation in Ile de France," said national police chief Michel Gaudin, referring to the Paris region. Arson attacks were counted in 163 towns around France, he said. The count of those detained overnight stood at 206, bringing to 2,440 the number of suspects picked up in just over two weeks of unrest.

Two Molotov cocktails were tossed at a mosque on Friday evening in the town of Carpentras, but it was not immediately clear whether the attack was linked to the unrest that has racked the poor suburbs and small towns of France since Oct. 27.

President Jacques Chirac demanded that investigators quickly find out who was behind the attack.

As France marked Armistice Day commemorating the end of World War I, calls for peace in the restive poor neighborhoods of France rang out, from demonstrators in Paris to religious leaders at a Lyon-area mosque in the southeast.

With a state of emergency in force, several hundred people gathered at the glassy Wall of Peace near the Eiffel Tower to call for an end to the unrest that since Oct. 27 spread from the Paris suburbs across the country.

The demonstration drew elderly Parisians and youths from the suburbs along with curious onlookers, all engaging in heated debate over how to stem the violence and tackle the causes.

Authorities have acknowledged that the roots of the problem are deep-seated. The woes include soaring unemployment, poverty and discrimination in the working class suburbs that ring the large cities of France.

"The violence of the last 15 days expresses the frustration of 30 years of denying recognition to the populations living in these neighborhoods," said Hassan Ben M'Barek, a spokesman for Suburbs Respect, a group of associations that organized Friday's demonstration.

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