Deaths spark Paris riots

Twelve people were arrested in Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large Muslim community, during a night in which a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a police station and 11 cars and trash cans were torched.

But local authorities said the level of violence was lower than on previous nights.

Tension has been high between police and gangs of youths in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, since the accidental death by electrocution last Thursday of two teenagers.

Many of the rioters targeting police were angry at the deaths of two youths, aged 15 and 19, who were electrocuted after they scaled the wall of an electrical relay station and touched a transformer.

The local public prosecutor, Francois Molins, said the boys thought they were being chased by police, but authorities denied that was the case.

The launching of a tear gas grenade at a mosque late Sunday threatened to further escalate the troubles.

Police fired more tear gas overnight on Monday to disperse around 100 youths involved in a stand-off with 50 officers near the mosque.

In another worrying development, Monday night was the first time that the unrest was reported to have spread to neighbouring areas of the Seine-Saint-Denis region outside Paris.

Just after midnight in nearby Montfermeil, the municipal police garage was set ablaze and two cars destroyed, a prefecture spokesman said.

Elsewhere in the towns of Sevran and Aulnay-sous-Bois police were subjected to “stone-throwing” gangs but there were no injuries, according to the local prefecture. Small fires were also lit in the towns.

One police source told news agency AFP that “the Clichy rioters are being copied in Sevran, Neuilly-sur-Marne and Bondy”, where he said vehicles were torched.

However the prefecture described the latest trouble as “harassment” by small groups of 10 or 15 people rather than the “rioting” seen last week.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — who has implemented hardline urban security policies in his bid for candidacy in France’s 2007 presidential elections — visited the administrative headquarters responsible for the suburb.

“Everyone has to understand that my determination is absolute” in confronting the violence, he told journalists.

Mr Sarkozy, who is also leader of France’s ruling UMP party, vowed to wage a “war without mercy” on crime in the Paris suburbs just a week before the rampages.

The minister said the Clichy-sous-Bois area would be the first suburb to roll out cameras on police cars.

The families of the two boys killed snubbed Mr Sarkozy’s invitation to meet with them, and called the tear gas incident “disrespectful.”

“We are asking for calm, we are asking for justice and we are asking for the riot police to leave,” Siyakah Traore, brother of one of the victims, said.

Among those detained since Thursday were four minors, who were to be brought before a children’s court judge on Tuesday.

Another magistrate on Monday ordered three young men to jail for two months.

Of the 28,000-plus residents of Clichy-sous-Bois, 50 percent are under 25 years old.

The suburb has a jobless rate higher than the national average and a heavy concentration of immigrants including first and second generation Muslims from France’s former colonies.

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