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Shots fired as French riots escalate

Shots fired as French riots escalate
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The French capital has experienced its worst night violence since the unrest erupted a week ago. Rioters shot at police and firefighters with live bullets and threw petrol bombs and rocks, leaving behind a trail of burnt-out shops, cars and buses. This time youths from impoverished estates in the north and east of Paris clashed with police.

Some 270 vehicles were set ablaze last night alone. Around 143 youths have been arrested so far. The riots started after the deaths of two local teenagers, who were electrocuted after climbing into an electricity substation, apparently fleeing police. But in many of the rundown estates, violence is never far below the surface. One residents said: “I think there is poverty and instability. At a given moment, when there is no more dialogue, no more communication with the public powers, the people feel abandoned, put to one side and that leads to what happened yesterday.” Shops and public buildings – including two schools – were among the youths’ targets. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said: “The day that people understand that burning their neighbours’ cars is serious, that it is unacceptable and has to be punished, I guarantee there will be fewer cars on fire.” The mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the riots began, has visited one of the local mosques and joined community leaders in appealing for calm.