- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2005

PARIS — Hoodlums stormed into the streets across France for a 12th night yesterday, burning schools, cars and public buildings in defiance of government threats of curfews and the call-up of police reserves.

A leading Muslim group, the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, has issued a fatwa, or order, telling Muslims not to join in the violence.

Authorities seemed unable to control the rioting, which reached a new peak on Sunday night and spread into neighboring Belgium and Germany. More than 1,400 vehicles were torched that night, and yesterday the rioting claimed its first fatality.

Neighboring countries, fearing a spillover of the violence, have urged France to deal effectively with the uprising, which has been concentrated in impoverished suburbs populated largely by North African immigrants, mostly Muslims, and their native-born children.

German officials reported five cars set on fire Sunday night in Berlin and six in the western city of Bremen. Belgian police said five cars were set on fire outside the main train station in Brussels.

In Rome, opposition leader Romano Prodi called for urgent steps to improve the quality of life in immigrant neighborhoods to keep the trouble from spreading to Italy. Several countries, including the United States, have warned their citizens visiting France to take care.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, in a major television appearance last night, declared that France will call up 1,500 police reserves and impose curfews “wherever it is necessary” to restore public order.

The deputy mayor of the Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris moved quickly, imposing a curfew for unaccompanied minors at 10 last night.

As of tomorrow night, all local government officials will be authorized to set curfews in areas where “they think it will be useful to permit a return to calm and ensure the protection of residents. That is our No. 1 responsibility,” Mr. de Villepin said.

But the curfew decisions did nothing to quell the violence. By midnight yesterday, 324 vehicles had been set on fire across France and four police officers were injured, said Patrick Hamon, a spokesman for the national police.

As in previous nights, no region was spared from violence. Gasoline bombs were hurled at a hospital, and a school was set on fire in suburbs of the French capital.

In Toulouse, a crowd of youths pulled passengers from a bus and set it on fire; in Burgundy, gasoline bombs were hurled at a police station; in Bordeaux, an employment agency was burned; in the Normandy town of Havre, a school was torched; and nursery schools were attacked in Brittany and outside Lyon.

Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, a German TV crew was pelted with stones, and in Clichy-sous-Bois, the suburb where rioting began Oct. 27, three Italian journalists were attacked, leaving one injured.

Earlier yesterday, authorities announced the first death during the rioting — Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, a 61-year-old retired auto worker, was beaten into a coma while trying to put out a trash-can fire Friday at his housing project near Paris.

Security analyst Sebastian Roche of the state-funded National Center for Scientific Research told the Associated Press that in terms of material destruction, the unrest is France’s worst since World War II.

“These people seem to have no realization whatsoever of what the government has just announced,” said Jean-Christophe Carme, head of a police union who had been calling for a curfew since the second day of rioting.

“It’s obvious by these continuing acts of violence tonight that there is a total rupture between certain French youths and the state. There is no dialogue at all.”

Mr. Carme spoke to The Washington Times as he rushed off to deal with more rioting in the Paris suburb of Yvelines.

Cabinet ministers were to meet this morning to clear the way for local government officials, known as prefects, to impose the curfews. The procedures for such action were set out in a 1955 law enacted during the Algerian war, the last time such curfews were put in place.

Mr. de Villepin also said an additional 1,500 police and gendarmes would be brought in to reinforce the 8,000 officers deployed.

He also announced that the government will accelerate by 18 months its plan to renovate poor urban areas and triple the number of scholarships granted to students in the most troubled neighborhoods.

Despite calls by police unions for army intervention, however, Mr. de Villepin ruled out bringing in the military, saying, “We have not reached that point.”

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