Suburban unrest spreads to at least nine towns with clashes, scores of cars set afire
PARIS – Unrest spread across troubled suburbs around Paris in a sixth night of violence Tuesday as police clashed with angry youths and scores of vehicles were torched in at least nine towns, local officials said.Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets at advancing gangs of youths in Aulnay-sous-Bois – one of the worst-hit suburbs – where 15 cars were burned, said the prefecture that runs the Seine-Saint-Denis region. Youths lobbed Molotov cocktails at an annex to the town hall and threw stones at the firehouse. It was not immediately clear whether there were injuries from the clashes.Four people were arrested for throwing stones at police in nearby Bondy where 14 cars were burned, the prefecture said. A fire engulfed a carpet store, but it was not immediately clear whether the blaze was linked to the suburban unrest.Officials gave an initial count of 69 vehicles torched in nine suburbs across the Seine-Saint-Denis region that arcs Paris on the north and northeast.The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, often from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency. Anger and despair thrive in the tall cinder-block towers and long “bars” that typically make up housing projects in France.No trouble was immediately reported in Clichy-sous-Bois, where rioting began Thursday following the accidental deaths of two teenagers hiding to escape police in a power substation.Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy – blamed by many for fanning the violence with tough talk and harsh tactics – met Tuesday night in Paris with youths and officials from Clichy-sous-Bois in a bid to cap days of rioting. But the unrest spread even as they met. Sarkozy recently referred to the troublemakers as “scum” and “riffraff.”An Associated Press Television news team witnessed confrontations between about 20 police and 40 youths in Aulnay-sous-Bois with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.Officials said that “small, very mobile gangs” were harassing police and setting fires to garbage cans and vehicles throughout the region.France-Info radio said some 150 blazes were reported in garbage bins, cars and buildings across Seine-Saint-Denis. The unrest highlighted the division between France’s big cities and their poor satellites.Tension had mounted throughout Tuesday after young men torched cars, garbage bins and even a primary school 24 hours earlier. Scores of cars were reported burned Monday night in Clichy-sous-Bois and 13 people were jailed.Youths set two rooms of a primary school in Sevran on fire Monday along with several cars, Mayor Stephane Gatignon said in a statement.Unrest was triggered by the deaths of two teenagers electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police. A third was injured. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Tuesday with the parents of the three families, promising a full investigation of the deaths and insisting on “the need to restore calm,” the prime minister’s office said.