Crisis talks over North African gang attacks on French police
The French government yesterday held crisis talks with community leaders in an effort to halt mounting violence in suburbs around Paris, amid news that gangs of youths, mainly of North African descent, were intensifying attacks on police.
Dominique de Villepin, the prime minister, ordered his interior and justice ministers to "toughen up" sentences for those found guilty of assaulting officers, following a meeting with community leaders.
His announcement followed a series of violent incidents over the past weeks, culminating in the ambush of three police officers on Friday by youths in Epinay-sur-Seine, north of Paris.
"These guys came to kill. They wore balaclavas, and had baseball bats and iron bars," said Joaquin Masanet, the general secretary of the powerful UNSA police union.
The three officers from the anti-crime brigade, BAC, entered the Orgemont housing estate after an anonymous caller reported a violent car theft.
Once inside, their exit was barred and they were set upon by around 50 youths, who pelted the men with stones. Iron bars smashed their windscreen. They tried to reverse, but a second vehicle boxed them in.
The criminals fled only after the officers fired live ammunition into the air and police reinforcements arrived.
One of the officers, Christophe Estève, 30, had two teeth knocked out and needed 30 stitches in his jaw. He was discharged from hospital yesterday.
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