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French officer declares Nantes' fatal shooting 'accidental'

Sebastien Salom Gomis / AFP | CRS anti-riot police officers are seen on July 4, 2018 in the Breil neighborhood of Nantes, following clashes between groups of young people and police in the night of July 3 after a man was shot dead by an officer.

A French policeman, who shot dead a young man in western France earlier this week, sparking three nights of rioting in Nantes, changed his explanation of the death on Friday, saying he fired his weapon by accident.

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The officer had initially claimed he acted in self-defence while trying to arrest the 22-year-old in the city of Nantes on July 3rd, but he offered a different version of events while being questioned in custody.

"He recognises he made a statement that did not conform with the truth," his lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard told AFP on Friday.

The policeman has told investigators from the IGPN police oversight body that "it was an accidental shot" that killed the man, identified as Aboubakar, who was under surveillance for suspected drug trafficking.

The young man died from a single bullet wound to the neck after police stopped him in his car in the Breil neighbourhood of Nantes, which is home to a large public housing estate with a history of gang violence.

Police said that Aboubakar had resisted arrest and tried to reverse his car into an officer.

A witness who spoke to AFP believed the car was stationary when the policeman opened fire.

Tensions

Dozens of cars and several buildings were torched in Nantes overnight Thursday-Friday in a third night of rioting over the killing.

Gangs of youths set fire to 52 cars -- including the mayor's personal vehicle -- and several buildings, including two schools, causing dismay among local residents.

Four people were arrested, including a 14-year-old carrying a petrol can and matches.

The unrest has highlighted tensions in deprived urban areas of France, where local youths often complain about heavy-handed policing and brutality, while the security forces are frequently treated as targets and struggle to combat violent drug-dealing gangs.

'Justice for Abou'

 

In a bid to defuse tensions, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe visited Nantes on Thursday where he promised "the fullest transparency" about the circumstances of the young man's death.

The same evening, around 1,000 people marched in Nantes calling for "justice for Abou" and demanding clarity about the circumstances of his death.

In 2005, riots erupted across the country following the deaths of two black teenagers who were electrocuted in a Paris suburb while hiding from the police.

Anger over policing bubbled over again last year when a young black man in another Paris suburb suffered severe anal injuries caused by a truncheon during his arrest.

(AFP)

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