11/07/2005

Paris riots make France look like Iraq

"Once upon a time Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East. Now Paris is Beirut on the Seine."
GRIGNY, France - Youths fired at police and hurled flaming Molotov cocktails at churches, schools, cars and a daycare center as violence peaked in an 11th night of unrest in France, sending a “shock wave across the country,” the national police chief said Monday. Vandals burned 1,408 vehicles across France, setting a new high for overnight arson attacks since the unrest started Oct. 27, Michel Gaudin told a news conference. The figure was an increase from the 1,295 vehicles torched the night before.“We are witnessing a sort of shock wave that is spreading across the country,” Gaudin said, noting that the violence appeared to be sliding away from Paris and worsening elsewhere in France.

Outburst of anger
Australia became the latest country to issue a travel warning, joining the United States and Russia in warning citizens to stay away from violence-hit areas. The unrest began Oct. 27 in the low-income Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, after the deaths of two teenagers of Mauritanian and Tunisian origin. The youths were accidentally electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation. They apparently thought they were being chased. Much of the youths’ anger has focused on Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as “scum.” In Strasbourg, youths stole a car and rammed it into a housing project, setting the vehicle and the building on fire. “We’ll stop when Sarkozy steps down,” said the defiant 17-year-old driver of the car, who gave his name only as Murat. Under arrest, he and several others awaited a ride to the police station as smoke poured from the windows of the housing project behind them. Sarkozy said he planned to visit the two hospitalized police officers. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the legs. The tough-talking interior minister said police must restore law and order to France, or gangs and extremists would fill the void. The violence has prompted soul-searching about how to ease anger and frustration among troubled youths in France’s grim public housing estates, where many residents are minorities. Educators met the French prime minister to think of ways to help.

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