Paris Riots Spreading But Less Intense

Last night, riots broke out south of Paris  in Toulouse as well as Villiers-le-Bel. Police report the overall situation was not as intense as the first two nights of rioting. France’s President Sarkozy is taking the hard line on the issue and reitterating that those that shot at police will be prosecuted.

Sarkozy is meeting the with family of the two boys who died prior to meeting with his security heads to determine which course of action to take.

Rioters are still burning cars and libraries showing it is nothing more than movement of destruction and nothing more.

PARIS, France (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that rioters who shot at police would be brought to justice and called the violence that rocked Paris suburbs “absolutely unacceptable.”

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Armed masked police patrol the streets of Villiers-le-Bel Tuesday night.

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It was the first time Sarkozy, who had just returned from China, entered the fray since the rioting broke out Sunday night.

The violence ebbed Tuesday night after police were deployed in force and quickly rounded up youths lobbing Molotov cocktails and setting cars ablaze.

The violence has drawn comparisons with riots that raged through suburbs nationwide in 2005, and has shown that anger still smolders in poor housing projects where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society.

“We will find the shooters,” and they will “be brought to account before justice,” Sarkozy said after meeting with a wounded police captain hospitalized in Eaubonne north of Paris.

The violence erupted Sunday after the deaths of two minority teens whose motorscooter collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town on Paris’ northern edge.

Residents claimed the officers left without helping the teens. Prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry denied that, saying police stayed on the scene until firefighters arrived.

Sarkozy described the teens’ deaths as “distressing.” But he added: “Shooting at police has no link to this incident.”

The French president was meeting Wednesday morning with the families of the two teens who died, and with the mayor of Villiers-le-Bel before having a security meeting with his top ministers.

While cars were set ablaze for a third night Tuesday, officials said the violence was less intense than the two previous nights. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the overall situation was “calm.” Still, she said on Europe-1 radio, police presence would remain reinforced “as long as necessary.”

She said 39 people were arrested in the Paris region Tuesday night.

Bands of young people set more cars on fire Tuesday in and around Villiers-le-Bel. In the southern city of Toulouse, 20 cars were set ablaze, and fires at two libraries were quickly brought under control, police said.

The previous night, 82 officers were injured, 10 of them by buckshot and pellets, the police force said. The use of firearms — rare in 2005 — added a dangerous dimension.

Sarkozy was interior minister, in charge of police, during the 2005 riots and took a hard line against the violence. Even before those riots, he angered many in housing projects when he called delinquents there “scum.”

The violence two years ago also started in the suburbs of northern Paris, when two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police.

There have long been tensions between France‘s largely white police force and ethnic minorities in poor neighborhoods. Despite decades of problems and heavy state investments to improve housing and create jobs, the depressed projects that ring Paris are a world apart from the tourist attractions of the French capital. Police speak of no-go zones where they and firefighters fear to patrol.

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