PARIS (Reuters) - Police and youths clashed in a fourth night of rioting in a northeastern suburb of Paris ahead of a Monday morning visit by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
Groups of young people hurled rocks and set fire to cars during the night, television pictures showed. LCI television said six police officers were hurt and 11 people were arrested.
The violence began four days ago among residents of Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large immigrant population, over the deaths of two teenagers believed to be of African origin who were electrocuted while fleeing police.
Sixteen people were injured in violence in the suburb on Friday and hundreds of residents marched silently on Saturday to appeal for calm and pay their respects to the two teenagers.
Many northeastern suburbs, where immigrants and families from poor backgrounds live in Soviet-style housing estates, have become notorious for youth violence.
In June, an 11-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet in the northern area of La Courneuve. The eastern suburb of Vitry-sur-Seine made headlines in 2002 when a 17-year-old girl was set alight by an 18-year-old boy whose friends stood nearby.
The latest riots come just days after Sarkozy launched a new crime offensive, ordering specially trained police to tackle 25 neighbourhoods in cities throughout France.
Sarkozy was due to visit the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis, which also oversees Clichy-sous-Bois, on Monday morning amid criticism that his policies have increased tensions in tough neighbourhoods.
He was set to meet police and firemen and will also meet the families of the two boys.
Laurent Fabius, a former Socialist prime minister and potential presidential candidate in 2007, said the violence marked a failure for Sarkozy's policies and mocked his frequent visits to violent areas.
"When he announces that he's going to visit such and such a commune or suburb every week, that's not how we resolve those problems," Fabius said on Europe 1 radio.
"We need to act at the same time on prevention, repression, education, housing, jobs ... and not play the cowboy."
Presidential hopeful Sarkozy, whose law and order policies have been criticised by human rights groups, made his name by cutting crime figures during his first stint as interior minister from 2002 to 2004.
Paris endured a third night of violence in the worst racial disturbances the French capital has ever seen.
While the British media are playing down the news, the French press reports that a highly tense situation remains in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. The trouble which began on Thursday evening was sparked by the accidental death of two youngsters of North African origin fleeing from Police who wanted to trace the boys in connection with a robbery carried out earlier that evening.
The boys evaded the police officers and hid in an electricity sub-substation where they were accidentally electrocuted. Trouble flared up with hundreds of youths attacking police lines.
On Friday night, trouble again erupted with firefighters being asked to deal with about 40 separate incidents across the suburb where many of the 28,000 residents are immigrants, mainly from North and Central Africa. Unidentified youths had set garbage bins and cars ablaze, and also fired a shot at police. Sixteen people were slightly injured on Friday night.
On Saturday evening gangs of youths torched some 20 cars and threw bottles, rocks and missiles at police. No youths or police were hurt but 15 people were arrested, police and local officials said.
The scale of the violence was unprecedented in France and the police were not equipped or prepared to deal with the rioting.
At one point on Friday evening an official from police trade union Action Police CFTC called for help from the army to support police officers.
"There's a civil war under way in Clichy-sous-Bois at the moment," Michel Thooris, from Action Police CFTC, said. "My colleagues neither have the equipment nor the practical or theoretical training for street fighting."
On Saturday morning over 300 protestors held a silent march in the suburb where organisers blamed heavy handed policing for the riots and a “lack of respect” by the Republic towards its poorest immigrant communities.
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