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Tensions rise as French youth set bus afire

Tensions rise as French youth set bus afire

A band of youths, some wearing masks, 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, a police official said.
Police cordoned off the neighborhood in Grigny, in the Essonne region, following the bus attack Sunday, which came five days before France marks the one-year anniversary of the start of three weeks of fiery riots by poor suburban youths.
District police chief Jean-Francois Papineau called Sunday's bus attack "deliberate." He said a vehicle was set afire at about 2 p.m. (local time) and used as a road block that forced the bus to stop. Two youths then entered the back of the bus to clear out passengers before dousing it with gasoline and setting it ablaze.
The blaze, which left the bus a tangled carcass of metal, spread to four parked cars, Papineau told LCI television.
When firefighters arrived, the youths, some masked, began stoning them, he said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI.
The local prefecture said that nearly 30 youths were involved in the incident. LCI reported that about 50 youths, some carrying iron bars, were involved.
Meanwhile, France's minister for social cohesion, Jean-Louis Borloo, called on citizens to act responsibly because "tensions are raw just as we're in the process of resolving the difficulties."
The daylight bus-burning evoked memories of the riots. It followed nearly a half-dozen incidents in recent weeks in which suburban youths have attacked police officers, in some cases in planned ambushes. Such clashes have raised tensions ahead of Friday's anniversary of the start of the riots.
Police secured the Grande Borne neighborhood of Grigny, the local government said, adding that order was quickly restored.
The riots last year laid bare rampant discrimination in the housing projects surrounding France's big cities where numerous French of immigrant origin live, separated from mainstream life.
On Saturday, five people were placed under investigation for attempted murder in relation to an October 13 ambush in the town of Epinay-sur-Seine, north of Paris, in which police were lured to a housing project then attacked by about 30 youths. One officer hit by a rock required 30 stitches to the face.
The government has since provided funds and enacted numerous measures in a bid to reverse the situation. However, the problem remains entrenched, and there are no concrete signs that daily violence has diminished.
Borloo, the social cohesion minister, said it could take three or four years to see concrete results from the efforts his government has put in place.