60 Police Injured As Riots Rock Paris

60 police injured as riots rock Paris

By Henry Samuel in Paris and Richard Holt
Last Updated: 2:39am GMT 29/11/2007

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is facing his first serious test of his law and order credentials after a second night of rioting erupted in northern Paris leaving more than 60 officers injured.

Of the injured officers five are said to be in a critical condition with one of them reportedly being shot.

Running battles flared up after two teenagers riding an unlicensed motorbike were killed in a crash with a police vehicle in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday.

Up to 160 riot officers fired tear gas and plastic bullets as they were pelted with stones and petrol bombs by youths in the high-immigrant area.

The violence spread from the hotspot suburb of Villiers-le-Bel 20 miles north of the centre of Paris to several surrounding areas, police said.

Officials had earlier attempted to quell mounting anger by launching a manslaughter investigation into the deaths.

State prosecutor Marie-Therese Givry said witnesses had confirmed the police officers' version which said the bike smashed into the side of their car during a routine patrol. Neither youth was wearing a helmet.

“This was a traffic accident between an unlicensed bike and a police car driving normally … which was not chasing anyone and whose siren had not been turned on,” she said.

Asked if the officers had failed to assist the victims, she said: “I will not allow it to be said that police services did not help the youths. Help was summoned. Emergency services came straight away. Everything was done to save them,” she said.

However, Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the victims, accused police of ramming the motorbike – a mini-size bike not allowed on the road and of failing to assist the injured teenagers.

“This is a failure to assist a person in danger… it is 100-per cent a blunder. They know it, and that's why they did not stay at the scene,” he told France Info radio. He demanded an apology from the police chief.

Speaking on a trip to Beijing, Mr Sarkozy called for “all sides to calm down and for the judiciary to decide who bears responsibility”.

It is the worst rioting to hit the capital since 2005, when rioters burned thousands of cars over two weeks of unrest following the accidental deaths of two youths who allegedly fled police.