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Thursday, January 1, 1998 Published at 15:06 GMT


New Year riots in France
image: [ Firemen were attacked by rioters when they tried to put out the flames ]
Firemen were attacked by rioters when they tried to put out the flames

Youths in the French city of Strasbourg - home of the European Parliament - greeted the New Year with riots in which more than 50 cars were gutted and two policemen injured.

Disaffected youths went on the rampage in underprivileged suburbs of the city, which is close to the German border, on Wednesday night.

Home made bombs went off in a gymnasium, a cultural centre and a primary school, causing damage estimated at up to 300,000 francs ($50,000), despite the presence of some 400 police and 200 firemen, some of whom were attacked as they tried to put out the flames.

Local prefect Patrice Magnier said it was the worse violence in the city since 1974.

The rioters smashed 21 telephone kiosks and 32 bus shelters and destroyed 53 cars and vans.

Twelve people, all between 13 and 20 years old, were arrested and taken into custody for questioning in.

[ image: More than 50 vehicles were gutted]
More than 50 vehicles were gutted
Departmental director for public safety, Jean-Luc Faivre, said two police officers were slightly injured during the night but there were no violent confrontations between the police and young people.

But one firefighter said young people had thrown stones and firecrackers at emergency workers.

There were also scattered incidents of violence in the Paris suburbs of Yvelines and Saint Denis during New Year celebrations.

[ image: President Chirac criticised rising violence]
President Chirac criticised rising violence
French President Jacques Chirac, in his annual New Year message, denounced growing violence in France and urged people to help the police control the problem.

He said: "There is too much violence in our country, too much insecurity - in the schools, on public transport. Every day new limits are broken beyond which our society will disintegrate."

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