Wave of attacks on Paris drivers

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TWO EXTRA companies of riot police have been drafted on to buses and trains in the Paris area to prevent attacks on drivers which have provoked a series of strikes in the past 10 days. All suburban trains to the south from the Gare Montparnasse in Paris were cancelled yesterday after a tear-gas grenade was thrown at a driver on Tuesday night.

All buses in the Paris region were cancelled on Tuesday after a series of assaults on drivers in the quartiers difficiles, or sink suburbs. In one incident, a driver was stabbed by a young man for refusing to open his door between stops.

"We've been asking for an extra person in every bus for years and nothing has happened," said one driver. "Perhaps they'll understand now."

Paris is surrounded by suburbs with high unemployment and few services. Buses and trains have become targets for gangs of young people, some of whom, but not all, are of Arab or African origin.

The head of the RATP, which runs most public transport in the Paris region, said he was confronted with a serious social problem. "The RATP, and our drivers, become the symbol of all the institutions they wish to reject," said Jean-Paul Bailly.