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Monday, November 26, 2007

Youths clash with French police

French riot police are on alert as violence following the death of two teenagers threatens to escalate into a repeat of the Clichy-Sous-Bois riots two years ago.

Dozens of youths clashed with police in a Paris suburb on Sunday night after two teenagers were killed in a traffic accident with a police car.

The authorities boosted security in Villiers-le-Bel, a town north of the capital, where youths set fire to the town's police station. Another police station in neighbouring Arnouville-les-Gonesse was ransacked.

Two teenagers aged 15 and 16 riding a stolen motorcycle were killed in a collision with a police vehicle in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday, triggering the unrest.

Police said there were reports of looting and of "small groups attacking shops, passers-by and car drivers".

Firemen doused flames that engulfed a garage in Villiers before it could spread to a neighbouring garage and a nearby petrol station.

Tense situation

Nicolas Carrier, the mayor's chief of staff, told Reuters: "The situation is tense tonight. We do not know how it will evolve during the night."

French television showed burning rubbish bins and the charred wreckage of a car at the scene, while witnesses said they saw Molotov cocktails being prepared.

At least seven policemen and a fireman were injured in the incident, a local official said, adding that a youth has been arrested for suspected robbery.

In November 2005, two immigrant youths fleeing the police in Clichy-Sous-Bois a suburb northeast of Paris died after being electrocuted in an electrical sub-station, sparking the worst urban unrest France had seen in 40 years.

But a police union source said the circumstances in Sunday's case were different.

"It was not a chase but apparently a traffic accident," he said.

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