Immigrant riot follows shooting by police

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The Independent Online
NORTH AFRICAN youths overturned cars, setting one alight, in the southern French city of Beziers yesterday after the shooting of a 17-year-old Moroccan by police on Sunday.

Hassan Benahmed was killed by a bullet in his head after a car chase which ended in the centre of town. He was a passenger in a stolen Renault which police first intercepted outside Beziers.

Two CRS riot police were apparently in the process of trying to arrest him and the car's driver when one of the officers accidently fired his service pistol. Riots broke out immediately on Sunday evening and resumed yesterday despite a call from Alain Barrau, the city's Socialist mayor, for calm. 'The Justice and Interior Ministries must give quick responses to the quesions put by the Moroccan community to avoid any escalation,' he said. The CRS officers were still being questioned about the shooting last night.

About 200 youths smashed shop windows and set fire to a car outside the town hall. Another car, belonging to a magistrate and parked outside the courthouse, was among at least five cars overturned during the afternoon. Earlier, young immigrants had staged a peaceful protest march in the city.

The Beziers riots were the most serious instance of violence involving immigrant communities since the spring. Sparked by the killing of a youth by police, their beginning was almost classic. There were immediate protests from civil rights and anti-racist groups. The MRAP, one of the main anti-racist organisations, said the incident had been encouraged by 'the impunity and absence of charges from which the police have benefited'.

The Force Ouvriere police union meanwhile warned against 'abusive use' of the incident, saying this would damage the image of a police force suffering from 'the endemic deficiency of its means and manpower'.