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French Police Arrest Amiens Riot Suspects

  • Lisa Bryant

Damaged car in northern neighborhood of Amiens, France, August 15, 2012.

Damaged car in northern neighborhood of Amiens, France, August 15, 2012.

PARIS — Police in France have arrested five suspects linked to violence this week in the northern city of Amiens that has revived memories of 2005 riots that rocked the nation.

Officials say those arrested are aged between 15 and 30 years old. All live in the northern part of Amiens, that has been shaken by unrest. Clashes between youths and police Monday night left 16 officers injured in the city, located about 120 kilometers from Paris. Rioters burnt cars, destroyed a sports center and set a primary school on fire. Security has since been reinforced and the situation is now calm but tense.

But Interior Minister Manuel Valls was booed as he visited the city earlier this week. Valls said nothing can excuse the violence and that order, calm and justice must be restored and respected.

A young resident named Said told French radio he understood the message. But he said authorities must also look at what fueled the violence.

France's Socialist government has already made the Amiens area a priority security zone. But there are also calls for it to address endemic problems like high unemployment and poverty.

Amiens Mayor Gilles Demailly told French radio that the city is usually calm, but real problems exist in its tougher neighborhoods. Besides violence prevention, he said, justice must be delivered faster.

The unrest has brought back memories of 2005 rioting in poor, heavily immigrant suburbs around Paris that later spread across the country. So far, that has not happened with Amiens. But it underscores the tough challenges facing President Francois Hollande, as he deals with high unemployment and a flat economy, a little more than 100 days into his presidency.