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French tighten security around landmarks as Paris fears attack- Muslim rioting erupts in Lyon -violence continues despite curfew

Molotov cocktails thrown at mosque get more police scrutiny then shots fired at police
November 13, 2005

Police tighten security at Paris landmarks

Sunday, November 13, 2005 (Paris):

Emergency security measures went into effect in Paris, with 3,000 police patrolling train stations, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees to prevent France's worst unrest in decades from spreading to the capital.

National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said police were taking "every precaution," including banning certain public gatherings, a day after calls for "violent actions" in Paris were posted on Internet blogs and sent in text messages to cell phones.

"This is not a rumour," Gaudin told a news conference, citing Paris' best-known landmarks among potential targets. "One can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant."

Several hours after nightfall, no trouble anywhere in Paris had been reported.

Unrest weakens

Unrest has weakened in intensity since the government declared a state-of-emergency Tuesday, empowering local authorities to invoke exceptional security measures such as curfews if deemed necessary.

Despite heightened security around the country, new violence broke out last evening in the southeastern city of Lyon.

Police fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing youths at the city's historic Place Bellecour. It was the first time in 17 nights of unrest across France that youths and police clashed in a major French city.

Just hours earlier, regional authorities had imposed a weekend curfew on Lyon, France's third-largest city that barred youths under 18 from being outside without adult supervision between 10 pm and 6 am local time. (AP)


Lyon police fight rioters as Paris stands guard News Staff

Some vandalism and unrest broke out in the city centre of Lyon, hours before a curfew was to begin, but police quickly suppressed the rioters.

Police fired tear gas and made 10 arrests Saturday night after about 50 youths attacked stalls and vehicles in the city of 1.2 million located southeast of Paris.

Besides Lyon, 10 other towns faced curfews.

In Paris, more than 3,000 police stood guard at the Eiffel Tower and other high-profile sites around Paris amid fears that rioters could target them.

As well, authorities banned all public gatherings that could "provoke or discourage disorder" until Sunday morning.

The added security comes after officials intercepted calls for "violent actions" posted on numerous Internet blogs and in text messages on cell phones.

"This is not a rumour," said National Police Chief Michel Gaudin. "I think one can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant," he told reporters Saturday.

By 9 p.m. local time, no trouble had broken out in Paris.

The precautions follow another night of unrest in France -- the 16th in what has become the country's worst unrest since student riots in 1968.

Overnight, more than 500 cars were burned, up slightly from the night before when just over 460 cars were torched, police said Saturday. However, there were fewer incidents of violence in Paris suburbs, police said.

The unrest has dropped in intensity since the French government imposed a state of emergency on Wednesday.

The unrest was sparked by the accidental electrocution deaths of two Muslim teenagers on Oct. 27 in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris. They were hiding out in a power substation to escape police.

Muhttin Altun, a badly burned companion, told a judge the teens were fleeing a police patrol because they didn't have their identity papers on them.

Since those deaths, the riots have spread around France and were intensifying before the state of emergency was imposed. The evenings have been marked by nightly arson attacks on vehicles, public buildings, public transport, schools and businesses.

Officials have acknowledged that social problems are deep-seated in the areas where the riots began. The working-class suburbs that ring French cities are rife with unemployment, poverty and discrimination.

Earlier this week, French President Jacques Chirac for the first time addressed the inequalities and discrimination that have fueled the rioting across France.

"There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighborhoods around our cities," he said.

Overall, about 2,440 people have been arrested since the start of the unrest. More than 350 of them have already been sentenced to prison terms.

As for the youths under 18, almost 458 have been brought before juvenile courts. More than 100 are in the process of being charged, the Justice Ministry said.

On Friday night, two Molotov cocktails were tossed into a mosque in the northern city of Carpentras on Friday. A porch was slightly damaged. However, it is unclear if this incident is linked to the rioting.

Chirac has asked investigators to find out who was behind this incident.

Police, Rioting Youths Clash in Central Lyon

By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, November 13, 2005; A18

PARIS, Nov. 12 -- Dozens of youths threw trash cans at police and attacked sidewalk shops in a main square of Lyon on Saturday night in the first clash between rioters and police in a city center after more than two weeks of violence in France, according to news reports.

Youths stormed through the historic Place Bellecour in Lyon, France's third-largest city, located in the southeastern Rhone Valley region, even though the city had imposed a nighttime curfew on minors not accompanied by parents. Police fired tear gas to disperse the youths, and 10 people were arrested, officials said.

Most of the recent violence in France -- the worst civil unrest in the country in nearly 40 years -- has occurred in poor suburbs and neighborhoods populated by large numbers of immigrants and their French-born children. The rioters have said the nightly attacks are attempts to expose the inequities and pervasive discrimination in French society.

In Paris, an estimated 3,000 police swarmed across the city Saturday, reinforcing security at major tourist sites and suburban subway and train lines after a wave of Internet blogs and cell phone text messages urged the youths who have been torching cars and government buildings in the suburbs to take their grievances to the heart of the capital.

"This is not a rumor," National Police Chief Michel Gaudin told reporters, adding that two of Paris's most popular tourist sites -- the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Elysees -- were among potential targets for violence. "I think one can easily imagine the places where we must be highly vigilant."

No incidents of violence were reported inside Paris, though unrest continued Saturday in 163 cities and towns across France, according to police. On Saturday night, the 17th night of the rioting, a policeman was injured in a Paris suburb when he was hit by a metal ball thrown from an apartment building.

In the southern town of Carpentras in the Provence region, youths burned a school Saturday night. On Friday night, a motor-scooter rider threw two gasoline bombs at a mosque during prayers, causing minor damage. Police said it was unclear whether the attack was linked to the other violence around the country. Many of the youths involved in the rioting are Muslim.

Although the level of violence has declined since last weekend, when more than 1,400 vehicles were burned in one night across 300 towns and communities, police said 502 cars were set ablaze Friday night and early Saturday morning, a slight increase from the previous night.

In Paris, youths booed and yelled curses at Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy when he tried to inspect a group of police reinforcements on a crowded street in Paris Saturday. He ducked back into his car and drove away, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

Sarkozy -- considered a leading contender for France's 2007 presidential election -- is reviled by those leading the rampages across the country. Before the riots began, he referred to troublemakers in the poor housing projects of the suburbs as "rabble" that should be cleaned out with a "power hose," and after the civil unrest started he called the perpetrators "scum."

Police and military security has been bolstered around tourist sites in Paris since multiple bombings in London in July. Last month, French officials staged a mock terrorist attack on the Eiffel Tower and a double-decker tourist bus on the street in front of the tower. French commandos outfitted in black slid down ropes from the first level of the tower and raced to the rescue of tourists held hostage in the simulation as thousands of real tourists looked on.

On Saturday, the heaviest concentration of police was around the Elysee Palace, the official residence of President Jacques Chirac. Dozens of police manned barricades around the ornate building and its grounds along the Champs-Elysees, Paris's most famous boulevard.

In other areas, however, police remained discreetly inside their buses, cars and vans, mostly just out of sight of tourists lined up outside museums, galleries and other sites.

Arjang Ahmadpour, 20, a student from Los Angeles waiting in line in a cold drizzle to take the elevator up the Eiffel Tower, shrugged off concerns about the unrest. "People asked me, 'Oh, you're going to Paris? Aren't you scared?' " he said.

His response, he said, has been, "They're not going after tourists."


Wounded Chirac ‘losing grip' of riot-hit France
Matthew Campbell, Paris
FRANCE yesterday ordered a ban on public meetings likely to provoke disturbances as thousands of police were deployed on the streets of Paris to stop youths turning the tourist centre into a battlefield.

The initiative came as speculation mounted over a severely discredited Jacques Chirac's ability to endure the last 17 months of his presidential term.

Ringleaders of the riots that have shaken France for the past two weeks were suspected of planning to set ablaze the affluent Champs Elysées. Through text and internet messages they were encouraging followers armed with Molotov cocktails to converge on the tree-lined tourist haunt just a stone's throw from Chirac's palace.

The violence, which started just over two weeks ago in poor suburbs, has fallen in intensity since the government announced emergency measures on Tuesday. Lyons witnessed the first riot in a major city centre yesterday, but police quickly took control by firing tear gas.

Across the country, 130 cars were torched before midnight and police made 41 arrests. Arsonists burnt down an electronics store on the fringes of Toulouse and a school in the southern town of Carpentras. A riot policeman was injured by a metal ball thrown from an apartment block in a Paris suburb.

On Friday night 502 vehicles were set ablaze, the highest total for three days, and 206 people were arrested. In Carpentras, two fire bombs were hurled at a mosque.

Central Paris has largely escaped the worst civil unrest in France since the student protests of 1968 but Chirac's response to the mayhem engulfing the country has been widely condemned. He has said virtually nothing about it, heightening perceptions of him as a politically irrelevant figure.

He looked pale and deflated on Thursday in a rare public appearance, prompting rumours that the blood vessel problem for which he was hospitalised for a week in September — some described it as a mild stroke — might have inflicted more damage than previously acknowledged.

The 72-year-old head of state has been off balance ever since voters defied him by rejecting the European Union constitution in May. Even his lieutenants in the centre-right governing team seemed to be putting the boot in. "Chirac looks stunned, almost overtaken by events," Jean-Louis Debré, president of the national assembly, was quoted as saying.

Chirac, a veteran of countless political battles, baffled his opponents by leaving it to a spokesman to announce the revival of a state of emergency law to quell the unrest.

His few defenders said Chirac was simply following a tradition among French presidents who like to hover loftily above the political fray. A less charitable interpretation was that he had become hopelessly out of touch.

On Thursday he made a rare admission of failure by accepting that the government had not acted quickly enough in tackling racial discrimination.

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