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Security stepped up after unionist killed in clashes

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-02-19

A union activist was killed in Pointe-a-Pitre, the capital of Guadeloupe, as month-long protests over the high cost of living turned increasingly violent. Additional troops are headed to the French Caribbean island to help keep the peace.

Please read our reporters' notebook from Martinique


Watch our Face Off debate France: a revolt overseas?


And our Observers explain why Guadeloupe is going up in flames


Month-long protests over consumer prices and wages in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe turned deadly late on Tuesday night when a man was killed in the capital Pointe-a-Pitre.


“He was killed at a roadblock manned by youths,” Guadaloupe Prefect Nicolas Desforges told FRANCE 24, insisting that the casualty was not the result of “a clash with security forces.”


The victim, identified as Jacques Bino, was a union activist who was shot dead in his car after leaving a LKP (Collective Against Exploitation) meeting in Poite-a-Pitre. The LKP is a coalition of unions and leftist groups that launched the island’s general strike on January 20.


Bino’s car was near a roadblock manned by armed youths in the volatile Chanzy district when the youths opened fire, according to a local official. An inquiry into the incident is now underway.


Alerted at 12:18am on Wednesday (4:18am GMT), "police and firefighters faced numerous difficulties in getting to the place where the car and the wounded man were located. They arrived at 2:50am, and found the victim dead with a wound to the thorax," Desforges said.


Six members of the security forces were slightly injured during shoot-outs with armed youths, including three police officers who were hurt while trying to help emergency teams who rushed to Bino's aid, according to police officials.


Bino was the first victim of the escalating violence in Guadeloupe. Shortly after his death, the government in Paris appealed for calm and French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called same-day crisis talks on the deteriorating security situation.


French Prime Minister François Fillon issued a statement condemning the "extremely serious violence" that has erupted on the island. Fillon announced on Wednesday that France will dispatch four additional squadrons to Guadeloupe to help local authorities keep the peace.


Chaos on the streets


The general strike that began last month has paralysed the island and has threatened to spread to the other overseas French territories.


Guadeloupian protesters manned road barricades, sparked bonfires, looted shopping centres and destroyed businesses on Tuesday, with the island's main airport shutting down temporarily. Ary Chalus, mayor of the town of Baie-Mahault where three policemen were injured, has described the scene as "chaos".


The LKP has said it plans to step up protests this week after the government refused to bow to demands for a monthly 200 euro ($260) pay increase for low-wage earners.


In an interview with the local RCI radio station, LKP leader Elie Domota appealed for calm. "Don't put your life in danger -- don't endanger the lives of others," said Domota.


But he also accused the French government of treating the island, one of its four overseas departments, like a "colony".


Date created : 2009-02-19