Tensions remain high in Corsica after burkini beach riot

Pascal Pochard-Casabianca, AFP | Police hold back protesters in Bastia a day after a violent beach brawl in northern Corsica.

A beach brawl between locals and families of North African origin in Corsica, reportedly due to photos being taken of women in burkinis, resulted in protests Sunday as tensions remained high.


Saturday’s dispute erupted between members of "three families of North African origin and young locals", prosecutors said in a statement, describing the clashes as "very violent".

Witnesses said the fight started after the families objected to tourists taking pictures of women bathing in burkinis, the full-body, head-covering Islamic swimsuits. Some of those involved in the brawl were reportedly armed with hatchets and harpoons.

Prosecutors said five people, including a pregnant woman, were injured in the fighting, all of whom were later discharged from hospital.

The incident took place on a creek near the village of Sisco, in Upper Corsica.

On Sunday, the unrest spread to the island’s second city of Bastia, where hundreds of Corsicans marched on the Lupino district, which has a large North African community, chanting, “This is our home.”

Riot police could be seen barring the angry crowd from a housing estate, where some of the bathers involved in Saturday's brawl are said to live.

Third French town bans Burkini

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve condemned the violence, and pledged a full investigation "to shed light on these intolerable deeds and to arrest those responsible".

The clashes come amid heightened tension in France after a string of attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group, including the July 14 massacre in the southern city of Nice when a Tunisian ploughed a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 85 people.

In Corsica last December, angry protesters vandalised a Muslim prayer hall and trashed copies of the Koran after an assault on firefighters that was blamed on local youths of Arab origin.

The nearby French Riviera resort of Cannes has also sparked controversy by declaring a ban on burkinis  -- a ruling which won a court backing at the weekend.

On Monday, Corsica's Sisco became the third French town, after Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet, to ban the burkini from its beaches.

Sisco's Socialist Mayor Ange-Pierre Vivoni told France's BFM TV that the burkini was not acceptable in his town.

He said he was not targeting Muslims but he wanted to get rid of Islamist fundamentalists on the island.

“These people have no business here,” Vivoni said.

Islamic dress has long been a hot-button issue in secular France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places.

Last month Corsican lawmakers called on the French state to close down radical mosques on the island, hours after an underground separatist movement issued a threat against Islamic extremists.


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