France: Bus attacked

On Wednesday a non-violent organization, AC-Le Feu ("enough fire"), marched through Paris and presented a collection of 20,000 complaints to French legislators.

Later that night, a "group of youths" attacked a bus with its passengers.

A group of youths, some wearing hoods, forced passengers off of a public bus in a western Paris suburb on Wednesday night and then set it alight, regional authorities said. No one was hurt in the incident, the second bus attack this week.

The attack in the suburb of Nanterre came as France prepares to mark on Friday the one-year anniversary of riots last year by suburban youth, and raised the specter of a repeat of the three weeks of violence.

"A certain number of hooded individuals got on" the bus around 10:00 p.m. local time and "threw a bottle of flammable liquid," the Hauts-de-Seine region said. "Luckily, there were fewer than ten people on the bus," and "the people had the time to get off" the burning bus.

"This could have been very serious: If any of the passengers were not completely mobile, they could have burned," regional authorities said. They added that the bus line, which passes near Paris' financial district, La Defense, was not considered a high-risk line.

Though two units of firefighters quickly put out the flames, the bus was left a tangled carcass of metal, firefighters said.

Dominque Planchon, a spokesman for SGP police union, said between six and ten people were involved in the assault. No arrests have yet been made.

Planchon drew a direct connection between the attack and the rioting that rocked the suburbs that ring France's larger cities almost exactly a year ago.

"We can imagine is has to do with the one year anniversary of 2005 and naturally my colleagues fear the worst for 2006," Planchon told Associated Press Television News.

In a similar incident last Sunday, a band of youths forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight, set it afire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue. Police cordoned off the neighborhood in Grigny, in the Essonne region.

Meanwhile, the Essonne's transit authority on Wednesday suspended nighttime bus service for security reasons following "multiple incidents," including a tear gas bomb.

The transit authority's Web site said "multiple incidents" were behind the decision to suspend service, and warned that traffic on the lines would likely be affected on Thursday.

"We had a tear gas bomb in a bus today, and bus drivers were threatened in sensitive neighborhoods," Stephane Beaudet, president of the transit authority, told France Info radio on Wednesday. He said he preferred to err on the side of caution, as the "risk is real for drivers and passengers."

Beaudet said the buses would stop service before nightfall at about 6:30 or 7:00 p.m. local time. He also said lines would be modified to avoid certain neighborhoods where the risk of an attack was judged to be higher.

Source: International Herald Tribune 1, 2(English)


Another bus attacked

A similar attack happened in Bagnolet, eastern Paris, where a youth held a gun to the bus driver's head while others set it on fire, officials said.

Police report a spate of youth violence ahead of the anniversary.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie accused the youths of attempted murder in the latest incidents.

A security services report leaked to a French newspaper this week said that the conditions that led to last year's riots were still in place.

Source: BBC (English)

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