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Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 19:38 UK

New autopsy after French unrest

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Youths in France riot for third night

A second autopsy has been ordered on the body of a young man whose death in police custody has caused three nights of rioting in a southern French town.

Police say Mohamed Benmouna, a 21-year-old of Algerian origin, died after trying to hang himself in a cell earlier this week.

Youths have set shops and cars on fire and battled riot police in the town of Firminy in reaction to the death.

Prosecutor Jacques Pin said he wanted to "remove all doubt" in the case.

A first examination of Mr Benmouna's body on Thursday showed that he had died from "cardiac arrest by suffocation", he said.

Mr Benmouna had been arrested on suspicion of extortion.

The unrest in Firminy began on Tuesday, when youths burnt cars and threw stones at security forces.

On Thursday, in a third night of violence, several shops were destroyed by fire and police cars were damaged. Police responded with tear gas and said six people had been arrested.

The youths have challenged the official version of Mr Benmouna's death - that he hung himself with cords from a mattress.

His family have called for calm, but have also filed a complaint to ask for a full investigation.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux repeated on Friday that the death had been a suicide.

"He was put in detention, and during his detention, he wanted to commit suicide and unfortunately, he did so," he told French radio.

In 2005, night-time rioting spread across France after two teenagers died in a Paris suburb. Residents said they had trying to escape from police.

The violence mainly affected areas that are home to immigrant communities, many of North African origin.



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