French ministers in crisis talks after latest bus attack

A 26-year-old woman is critically ill in a Marseilles hospital after she suffered 70 per cent burns when teenagers poured petrol inside the bus on which she was travelling and set fire to it. Doctors said that if Mama Galledou, a student, survives, she will be maimed for life.

The attack on Saturday night came on the anniversary of last year's rioting in French suburbs and prompted bus drivers in Marseilles to go on strike. The Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, called ministers to his office for an emergency meeting on transport safety.

Politicians of all parties expressed horror at the arson attack but also seized on its potential as ammunition for the 2007 presidential race.

A man who rescued Ms Galledou from the burning bus described her "skin peeling from her body like a glove". The man, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said "she's black and she was wearing nylon trousers. Her skin came off and she became white. She could not stand, she could not sit, it was true horror."

The usually quiet Lilas area of north-east Marseilles, where the attack happened, is not known for extreme rates of delinquency but it is part of the swath of high-rise housing north of Marseilles - the area that produced the footballer Zinedine Zidane - with high unemployment and crime.

According to the Elysée Palace, President Jacques Chirac phoned Ms Galledou's parents to express "his horror in the face of this ignoble act". The Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, also phoned the couple and ordered two companies of riot police to the Lilas area.

There were no indications that the attack was racially motivated and the colour of the hooded youths who poured petrol in the bus was not immediately known. The torching of the bus, which had about 10 people on board when it was ambused by four youths, is likely to have been a copy-cat incident, planned to resemble six others in the suburbs of Paris in recent days.

On 27 October last year, a suspected police chase of three teenagers in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois ended with two of them dying in an electricity substation. The six weeks of rioting that ensued over France - with the exception of Marseilles - highlighted the often hopeless prospects of youths in French suburbs populated by second and third generation immigrants.

But as the weeks went by last year, it became clear that burning vehicles had become a sport for many rioters, who took pleasure in filming them on their mobile phones and placing the pictures on weblogs. Last year, a handicapped woman was badly burnt in a Paris suburb when she failed to escape a burning bus fast enough.

In an attempt to prevent the Marseilles attack from playing into the hands of the hardline Mr Sarkozy - who remains the likely presidential candidate of the centre-right government - the Socialists launched a sharp attack on him.

The Socialist first secretary François Hollande, who is married to the party's probable candidate, Ségoléne Royal, called Mr Sarkozy a "part-time minister" who has neglected France's troubled suburbs and concentrated instead on presidential campaigning.

Doctors at the Assistance Publique in Marseilles said Ms Galledou's condition had "neither improved nor deteriorated" last night.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?