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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital