| Remains of torched buses in the northern Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois. (AFP)
Bobigny (France), Nov. 3 (Reuters): Rioters shot at police and fire fighter crews in the worst night of a week of violence in poor suburbs that ring Paris prompting France’s Prime Minister today to vow to restore law and order.
Youths who rampaged overnight left a trail of burnt cars, buses and shops in nine suburbs north and east of Paris, home to North African and black African minorities frustrated at their failure to get jobs or recognition in French society.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin condemned the violence and said restoring order was his “absolute priority”.
“I refuse to accept that organised gangs are laying down the law in certain neighbourhoods ... Law and order will have the last word,” he told senators.
Rioters torched 177 vehicles and attacked a primary school and shopping centre, local officials said. Four police officers and two firefighters were hurt, including one with facial burns from a Molotov cocktail.
Prefect Jean-Francois Cordet, the government’s top official in the Seine-Saint-Denis region, confirmed shots had been fired at police and fire crews in three separate incidents.
Cordet did not say what sort of weapons had been fired but media said local police recovered shotgun cartridges from the scene at La Courneuve. No one was reported wounded.
Francis Masanet, secretary general of the UNSA police trade union, said: “It’s a dramatic situation. It is very serious and we fear that the events could even get worse tonight.”
Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, accused by opponents of enflaming passions with his outspoken attacks on the “scum” behind the violence, said 41 people had been detained overnight, and 143 in the past week. “Faced with the seriousness of these events there is only one political line ... firmness and justice,” Sarkozy said.
At a supermarket in Bobigny’s shopping centre, staff swept up broken glass and worried about the future. “If this continues, I’ll have to close,” said a local cobbler.