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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:44 GMT
The deaths that set Clichy ablaze
Cars burnt out during riots in Clichy-sous-Bois
The deaths began unrest which spread beyond Clichy

The riots which erupted in France's African and Arab communities in late October began after news of the deaths of two young men in the Paris suburb of Clichy.

Feelings were already running high over remarks by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that "scum" were behind urban violence.

Anger grew after a tear gas grenade hit a mosque in the first weekend of rioting.

When Zyed Benna, 17, and Bouna Traore, 15, climbed into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois on 27 October, they apparently knew they were taking a risk.

The sole survivor of the incident, who climbed into the station with the two teenagers and was badly injured in the incident, was quoted by police as saying they had all been aware of the danger, which was clearly signposted at the station.

They thought they were being chased but they were not
Francois Molins
Local prosecutor

According to this survivor's testimony, the three panicked after finding themselves near the scene of an apparent break-in as police officers arrived to investigate.

It was rumoured that the boys had actually been chased by police, a belief which quickly spread and sparked rioting in Clichy-sous-Bois, a poor suburb largely populated by North African immigrants and their French-born descendants where there was already friction between residents and police.

A peaceful protest march last Saturday - during which one hooded youth told French TV that the youths' deaths had been "not normal" while other protesters, including relatives of the dead, wore T-shirts marked "dead for nothing" - did little to dispel the rumours.

'Because the others ran'

According to French police reports, there was no chase and the three youths entered the electrical sub-station as a result of a tragic misunderstanding.

1720: Police arrive at scene of break-in and youths disperse
1730: Police hold six youths at scene
1750: End of police operation reported by radio
1812: Power cut recorded at relay station

Source: Le Monde

"They ran because other young people were running - they thought they were being chased but they were not," Francois Molins, public prosecutor for the Seine-Saint-Denis district, told reporters, quoting from the survivor's testimony.

Police officers had gone out to investigate reports of the break-in at a building site and a group of youths inside the site ran off when they caught sight of them arriving at 1720 that day, according to police sources quoted by Le Monde newspaper.

The youths joined a second group standing outside the site and a chase began when the police tried to approach them to question them, the sources say.

Police had detained six people by 1730, releasing several of them shortly afterwards, and were back at their station by 1750, they add.

The current at the sub-station is by Le Monde's sources to have been broken at 1812 - 22 minutes after the police operation ended.

The survivor has been quoted by police as saying he saw no police officers when they were fleeing.

An official investigation into the deaths is under way.

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