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More violence, arrests in Paris suburbs overnight: Police

GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT | AFP | Getty Images

French police arrested a dozen people in a fourth straight night of confrontation with youths in suburbs north of Paris, with tension sparked by accusations of police violence spreading to new areas, a police representative said.

Yves Lefebvre told franceinfo public radio about 10 vehicles were torched as young people hurled petrol bombs in standoffs with law enforcement officers in a region north of the capital where more serious rioting drew world-wide attention in 2005.

"There were further violent showdowns overnight," Lefebvre said.

While much more limited than 12 years ago, the unrest served as a reminder of the simmering tension in neighborhoods with higher than average unemployment and large immigrant populations.

Franceinfo said a bus driver was treated for minor injuries after his vehicle was hit by a petrol bomb.

"Sadly these neighborhoods have been turned into ghettos," Lefebvre of the SGP police union said, saying police were not sufficiently trained or equipped to deal with life in the gritty high-rise housing sprawls in the region ringing Paris.

The trouble began in Aulnay-sous-Bois several days ago after four police officers were suspended pending an inquiry into accusations they had used excessive force while arresting a 22-year-old man there, including shoving a baton into his anus.

One of the police officers involved in the man's arrest on Feb. 2 has been placed under formal investigation for suspected rape and three others for unnecessary violence.

President Francois Hollande visited the victim on Tuesday at the Aulnay hospital where he is being treated for injuries.

Lefebvre said the skirmishes on Tuesday night were mainly in towns around Aulnay-sous-Bois, which itself was relatively calm.

The standoffs are playing out against a backdrop of growing political uncertainty in France, where far-right leader Marine Le Pen leads the pack of candidates to succeed Hollande in May and conservative standard bearer Francois Fillon has been hit by accusations he had his wife paid by the state for a fake job.

Aulnay-sous-Bois is one of several areas where riots erupted in 2005 after two teenagers who fled from police in the nearby neighborhood of Clichy-sous-Bois died from accidental electrocution in a power station where they had hidden.

That incident sparked three weeks of rioting in which 10,000 cars and 300 buildings were set on fire, prompting the then interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, to declare a state of emergency and drawing attention to the contrasts between Paris and the bleak suburbs around it.

In Aulnay, where an unemployment rate of 19 percent is near double the national average, petrol bombs were thrown and police used tear gas in confrontations around a sprawl of buildings that were built in the late 1960s to house car factory workers. The factory closed in 2013.

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