Man killed and cars blaze in ugly start to the New Year

 

A man was shot dead and cars torched in several cities as France marked the New Year.

The 37-year-old man's body was found in his car parked near a bar in a suburb of the western city of Bordeaux. Six cars were set on fire in the city's suburbs and fire-fighters were called out several times to deal with fires in rubbish bins, police said.

Meanwhile, 38 cars were set alight in the suburbs of Strasbourg in what has become a New Year tradition for disaffected youths in the eastern city, police said.

Some 600 police were on duty and the city authorities staged a free concert in an attempt to check the phenomenon, with mixed results.

In the southern district of Neuhof police were stoned by around 100 youths after they stopped at an improvised roadblock - a Christmas tree. They responded with teargas, authorities said. Seventeen people were arrested and a police officer and a civilian were slightly injured.

Strasbourg's Socialist mayor, Mr Roland Ries, said one car burned was one too many. He was speaking on the way to the free concert. Mr Ries said the entertainment was not a miracle cure and the results would have to be assessed. "We are facing a new situation. We have to invent something new, take risks."

About 30 cars were set alight last weekend and youths hurled a Molotov cocktail into a nursery school.

It heralded a repetition of 1997's incidents when youths from poor suburbs inhabited largely by jobless immigrant families set cars on fire, 60 of them on New Year's Eve, and damaged public property throughout the New Year break.

The week of free entertainment, put on by city authorities at the cost of 3.8 million francs, was seen as a test scheme to ward off urban violence and delinquency in deprived city suburbs across the country where unemployment rides high.

In Mulhouse, the main city in the department of Upper Rhine, around 10 cars were burned, police said. In Paris, 500,000 people gathered on the Champs Elysees to see in the New Year, police said. Paramedics and members of the Red Cross were called in to treat 147 people. Six needed hospital treatment.

Police detained 22 people for questioning about incidents of violence and theft.