Third night of unrest in western France after fatal police shooting
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Cars and buildings were set alight Friday in a third night of rioting in western France over the fatal police shooting of a young man, the latest flare-up of tension between French police and youths in poor suburbs with large immigrant populations.
A policeman has been held for questioning over the killing of the man identified by local media as Aboubakar F. – an incident that risks inflaming strained relations in France's deprived urban areas where residents frequently complain of police brutality.
Around 50 cars were torched overnight in Nantes and there were arson attempts on a high school and a petrol station, the fire service said, but no injuries were reported.
There have been more than a dozen arrests over the riots, including one in the Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse where the slain 22-year-old grew up, after youths threw Molotov cocktails at police and set dumpsters alight early Thursday.
On Thursday evening, around 1,000 people marched in Nantes calling for "justice for Abou" and demanding that the circumstances of his death be revealed.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, on a visit to Nantes, condemned the riots and promised "the fullest transparency" about the man's death.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the government would do everything in its power "to calm the situation ... it is our duty to restore calm to Nantes, as we wish to do countrywide."
Aboubakar F. was under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation when he was stopped by police on Tuesday.
He was also wanted in Creteil, near Paris, for robbery and other offences.
Police in Nantes said he was not carrying ID and gave a false name, and they attempted to arrest him.
Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said the driver then "apparently tried to escape the search by quickly reversing".
Police sources said he drove into one of the officers, prompting his partner to open fire – but a witness said the car was halted when the driver was hit in the neck by a single bullet.
The officer who fired the shot has been detained by a police oversight body, the IGPN, which is investigating the killing.
Sennes said he was being held on suspicion of "voluntary violence by a person in authority leading to unintentional death".
'Burning our neighbourhoods'
Local residents have been deeply upset by the scale of the destruction caused by the riots.
"It's too much, I don't understand it," kebab-shop owner Yamina said, in shock as she inspected her burnt-out restaurant and car.
"They are burning our neighbourhoods when we are already poor," said another woman who did not want to give her name, though she also expressed anger at the police who "are never there".
A woman who filmed the incident, who wished to remain anonymous, said "there were no police behind the car, he didn't hit anyone. There was only the one gunshot".
The riot-hit districts of Nantes all have a history of gang violence.
In January, the government vowed a crackdown on urban violence after a shocking video emerged of a policewoman being beaten by a crowd in the Paris suburbs on New Year's Eve.
A parliamentary report released Tuesday showed high suicide rates within the police and warned about widespread low morale in the force.
In 2005, two teenagers of African origin were electrocuted while hiding from officers in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, sparking nationwide riots.
Anger over heavy-handed policing bubbled over again last year when a young black man in another Paris suburb suffered severe anal injuries during his arrest which were caused by a truncheon.