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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:45 GMT
French riots rage despite warning
Burning car in Toulouse, southern France, on 6 November 2005
Saturday night's count of car burnings is the highest yet
France has suffered its heaviest riot damage yet as warnings of tough prison sentences failed to deter arsonists.

Police reported 1,295 vehicle burnings and made 312 arrests as unrest in African and Arab communities spread to Strasbourg, Toulouse and Nantes.

On the 10th consecutive night of riots, four cars were torched on Place de la Republique in central Paris along with others in the central 17th District.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had warned of stiff jail sentences.

In some areas of Paris, night buses were cancelled as a precaution.

What I want from the authorities... are words of peace
Dilil Boubakeur
Head of Paris mosque

Police helicopters patrolled the skies over the capital, attempting to pursue and identify those responsible for the attacks.

Unrest began after the deaths of two youths in the rundown Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois on 27 October, who were accidentally electrocuted at an electricity sub-station after reportedly fleeing police.

The northern town of Evreux in Normandy saw some of the worst unrest overnight with at least 30 cars burned along with three shops, the local authorities said.

A school was also petrol-bombed in the town while four police officers were injured in clashes with youths, some of them reportedly wielding baseball bats.

Saturday night's violence was the worst reported to date:

  • A McDonald's was rammed by a car and almost completely burnt out in Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris

  • Five classrooms of a nursery in Grigny, south of Paris, were destroyed by fire while a primary school was also slightly damaged

  • A recycling facility was attacked in the Essone area near Paris, with 800 sq m of paper going up in flames and at least 35 vehicles torched

  • In Drancy, north-east of Paris, two teenagers were caught and handed over to police after they tried to set fire to a lorry.


Earlier on Saturday hundreds of people joined marches in Paris suburbs to protest against the violence.

In Aulnay-sous-Bois, which has seen some of the worst of the rioting, residents walked past burnt out vehicles and buildings with banners reading "No to violence" and "Yes to dialogue".

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met eight key ministers and the head of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur.

After the meeting, Mr Boubakeur urged a change in tone from the government.

"What I want from the authorities, from Mr Nicolas Sarkozy, the prime minister and senior officials are words of peace," he said.

Mr de Villepin has been holding a series of meetings with public figures and ordinary people from the affected areas as he seeks an end to the crisis.

Mr Sarkozy's much-quoted description of urban vandals as "rabble" (racaille) a few days before the riots began is said by many to have already created tension.

Reports of a police tear gas grenade hitting a mosque during the riots further inflamed feelings.

Clichy-sous-Bois: Two teenagers die in electricity sub-station on 27 October. Successive nights of rioting follow rumours they were fleeing police. A number of people arrested or injured.
Aulnay-sous-Bois: A flashpoint after violence spread from Clichy. Shots fired at police and cars and shops set ablaze. Further trouble in nearby suburbs, with more shots fired at police.
Elsewhere in France: From 3 November, violence spreads to other major cities like Dijon, Marseille, Nice and Strasbourg.

See the violence in three French cities

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