Violence, Riots Spread in France

Firefighters put out a blaze in a library in Villiers-le-Bel, outside Paris. i i

Firefighters put out a blaze in a library in Villiers-le-Bel, outside Paris. The building was torched by rioters as a reaction to the death of two teenagers whose motorbike collided with a police car on Sunday. Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty hide caption

itoggle caption Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty
Firefighters put out a blaze in a library in Villiers-le-Bel, outside Paris.

Firefighters put out a blaze in a library in Villiers-le-Bel, outside Paris. The building was torched by rioters as a reaction to the death of two teenagers whose motorbike collided with a police car on Sunday.

Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday appealed for an end to two days of riots that have injured 77 police officers in suburban Paris.

Sarkozy, who is in China, called a security meeting with his ministers when he returns Wednesday.

At least 77 French police officers were injured in riots Monday night, as rampaging youths fired at police and rammed burning cars into buildings during a second night of riots.

Deaths Trigger Riots

The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens, who were killed when their motorbike crashed with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town in Paris' northern suburbs.

Residents said the officers left the crash scene without helping the teens. The internal police oversight agency is investigating.

Rioting first erupted in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday night. It grew worse and spread Monday night to other towns north of Paris. Rioters hurled stones and petrol bombs at police, authorities said.

The use of firearms, which were rarely used in the 2005 riots that spread to poor housing projects nationwide, added a dangerous new dimension. Firearms are abundant in France, and police generally carry guns.

The violence and the use of firearms against officers present a stern test for Sarkozy, who was elected in May.

Sarkozy Has Different Role

As France's interior minister, Sarkozy was in charge of police during the 2005 riots. Those riots also started in the suburbs of northern Paris, when two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police.

On Monday night, youths were seen firing buckshot at police and reporters. A police union official said a round from a hunting rifle pierced the body armor of one officer, who suffered a serious shoulder wound.

Patrice Ribeiro, a senior police union official, said 77 officers were injured Monday night. He said the riots are more intense than those of 2005.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said six of the injuries were serious, and involved assaults to the face and eye areas.

In Villiers-le-Bel, arsonists set fire to the municipal library; burned books littered its floor. Shops and businesses also were attacked and more than 70 vehicles were torched, authorities said.

Violence also was reported in four other towns north of Paris and on the outskirts of Villiers-le Bel, suggesting that the rioting was spreading.

Rioters rammed burning cars into buildings, trying to set them on fire, authorities said.

"There was a lot of fear," Villiers-le-Bel resident Farida Si Said said.

On Sunday, eight people were arrested and 20 police officers were injured – including the town's police chief, who was attacked in the face when he tried to negotiate with the rioters, police said. One firefighter also was injured.

A recent study by the state auditor's office indicated that money poured into poor French suburbs in recent decades has done little to solve problems vividly exposed by the 2005 riots, including discrimination, unemployment and alienation from mainstream society.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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