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Civil Mayhem Rocks France for 12th Night

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051108/ap_on_re_eu/france_rioting Civil Mayhem Rocks France for 12th Night By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer 26 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 7, 2005
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051108/ap_on_re_eu/france_rioting

      Civil Mayhem Rocks France for 12th Night

      By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer 26 minutes
      ago

      PARIS - France will impose curfews under a
      state-of-emergency law and call up police reservists
      to stop rioting that has spread out of Paris' suburbs
      and into nearly 300 cities and towns across the
      country, the prime minister said Monday, calling a
      return to order "our No. 1 responsibility."

      The tough new measures came as France's worst civil
      unrest in decades entered a 12th night, with rioters
      in the southern city of Toulouse setting fire to a bus
      after sundown after ordering passengers off, and
      elsewhere pelting police with gasoline bombs and rocks
      and torching a nursery school.

      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, police said. No one was injured. Earlier, a
      61-year-old retired auto worker died of wounds from an
      attack last week, the first death in the violence.

      Asked on TF1 television whether the army should be
      brought in, Prime Minister Dominique de 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. "That is our prime duty: ensuring everyone's
      protection."

      The recourse to curfews followed the worst overnight
      violence so far, and foreign governments warned their
      citizens to be careful in France. Apparent copycat
      attacks took place outside France, with five cars
      torched outside the main train station in Brussels,
      Belgium. German police were investigating the burning
      of five cars in Berlin.

      National police spokesman Patrick Hamon said there was
      a "considerable decrease" in the number of incidents
      overnight into Tuesday in the Paris region.

      Nationwide vandals burned 814 cars overnight compared
      to 1,400 vehicles a night earlier, according to
      national police figures. A total of 143 people were
      arrested down from 395 the night before.

      The violence started Oct. 27 among youths in a
      northeastern Paris suburb angry over the accidental
      deaths of two teenagers but has grown into a
      nationwide insurrection.

      The mayhem is forcing France to confront anger
      building for decades in neglected suburbs and among
      the French-born children of Arab and black African
      immigrants. The teenagers whose deaths sparked the
      rioting were of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent. They
      were electrocuted as they hid from police in a power
      substation, apparently thinking they were being
      chased.

      President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more
      conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters
      would be caught and punished, acknowledged in a
      meeting Monday with Latvian President Vaira
      Vike-Freiberga that France has not integrated
      immigrant youths, she said.

      Chirac deplored the "ghettoization of youths of
      African or North African origin" and recognized "the
      incapacity of French society to fully accept them,"
      said Vike-Freiberga.

      France "has not done everything possible for these
      youths, supported them so they feel understood, heard
      and respected," Chirac added, noting that unemployment
      runs as high as 40 percent in some suburbs, four times
      the national rate, according to Vike-Freiberga.

      In violence Monday, vandals burned churches, schools
      and businesses, and injured 36 police officers in
      clashes around the country, setting a new high for
      arson and violence, said France's national police
      chief, Michel Gaudin.

      "This spread, with a sort of shock wave spreading
      across the country, shows up in the number of towns
      affected," Gaudin said.

      In terms of material destruction, the unrest is
      France's worst since World War II — and never has
      rioting struck so many different French cities
      simultaneously, said security expert Sebastian Roche,
      a director of research at the state-funded National
      Center for Scientific Research.

      Villepin said curfews will be imposed under a 1955 law
      that allows the declaring of a state of emergency in
      parts or all of France. The law was passed to curb
      unrest in Algeria during the war that led to its
      independence.

      He said 1,500 reservists were being called up to
      reinforce the 8,000 police and gendarmes already
      deployed. The Cabinet will meet Tuesday to authorize
      curfews "wherever it is necessary," he said.

      "The multiplying acts of destruction, the destruction
      of schools and sports centers, thousands of cars set
      on fire, all of this is unacceptable and inexcusable,"
      he said. "To all in France who are watching me, who
      are disturbed by this, who are shocked, who want to
      see a return to normalcy, a return to security, the
      state's response — I say it tonight forcefully — will
      be firm and just."

      Villepin said "organized criminal networks" are
      backing the violence and youths taking part are
      treating it as a "game," trying to outdo each other.
      He did not rule out the possibility that radical
      Islamists are involved, saying: "That element must not
      be neglected." France's community of Muslims, at some
      5 million, is western Europe's largest.

      Local government officials will be able to impose
      curfews "if they think it will be useful to permit a
      return to calm and ensure the protection of residents.
      That is our No. 1 responsibility," the prime minister
      said.

      A Socialist opposition leader, Francois Hollande, said
      his party would closely watch to make sure the curfew
      law is applied properly.

      "This law cannot be applied everywhere, and it cannot
      be long-lasting," Hollande said. He said Villepin
      should have put more emphasis on improving life in
      tough neighborhoods and said the premier's proposals
      were vague.

      Villepin said he wanted to speed up a $35.5 billion
      urban redevelopment plan, triple the number of merit
      scholarships for talented students and offer jobs,
      training or internships to disadvantaged young people.

      "We must offer them hope and a future," he said.

      But nearly 600 people were in custody Monday night,
      and fast-track trials were being used to punish
      rioters.

      France's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organization,
      the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, issued
      a religious decree against the violence. It prohibited
      all those "who seek divine grace from taking part in
      any action that blindly strikes private or public
      property or can harm others."

      The first fatality was identified as 61-year-old
      Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec. He was trying to extinguish
      a trash can fire Friday at his housing project in the
      northeastern Paris suburb of Stains when an attacker
      caught him by surprise and beat him into a coma,
      police said.

      "They have to stop this stupidity," his widow, Nicole,
      told Associated Press Television News of the rioting.
      "It's going nowhere."

      ___

      Associated Press Writers John Leicester, Angela Doland
      and D'Arcy Doran contributed to this report from Paris.
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