Sarkozy urges calm as riots return to Paris
· Violence in suburbs after youths die in police crash
· Angry residents accuse officers of fleeing scene
Emilie Boyer King in Paris
Tuesday November 27, 2007
Rioters in front of a burning truck throw stones at the police in Villiers Le Bel, a northern suburb of Paris. Photograph: Philippe de Poulpiquet/EPA
President Nicolas Sarkozy, visiting China, called for calm, while police braced themselves for more unrest after hours of running street battles. The riots broke out on Sunday, hours after the two teenagers collided with a patrol car.
The accident resembled the event that triggered suburban riots in France in 2005, sparking fears of more violence to come. Two years ago the death of two boys allegedly fleeing the police in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois sparked weeks of violence in France's rundown estates.
Nine people were arrested yesterday morning, according to police.
The crash that sparked the riots occurred at around 5pm on Sunday, when a mini-motorcycle and a police car on patrol collided, killing a 15-year-old, Moushin, and his friend, Larami, 16. Police said the teenagers were driving an unregistered vehicle and were not wearing helmets.
"We are sorry about the death of these young people, but it appears that they were unfortunately the victims of a traffic accident," said Francis Debuire, of the Force Ouvrière police union.
However, residents said police fled the scene and failed to help the youths. "They hit them from behind," Calbo, a rapper and local resident, told Reuters. "They saw they were in pain [but] they didn't help. The police tried to drive off by starting their car. They couldn't start their car because it was damaged, so they ran away."
An investigation on suspicion of possible manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident has been opened by police.
Last night, during an official visit to Beijing, Sarkozy said: "I call on everyone to calm down and let the justice system decide who was responsible."
Shortly after the riots broke out the local mayor and a police chief arrived, but were forced to turn back after the policeman was hit in the face and his car set on fire. Riot police were then brought in.
The mayor, Didier Vaillant, urged local people not to resort to violence. "We must make sure this doesn't happen again ... I am calling all the men and women of Villiers-le-Bel to help me do this."
Omar Sehhouli, the brother of one of the victims, said the police involved should be convicted. "Everyone knew the two boys here," he told French radio. "What happened, that's not violence, it's rage."
The Socialist head of the opposition, François Hollande, condemned the violence but said it revealed a "social and political crisis", and blamed the government for not improving the situation in destitute suburbs since the 2005 riots.