Published On: Thu, Jul 5th, 2018

French police shooting sparks Nantes riots in as youths burn shops with petrol bombs | World | News

Riot police have swarmed the French city of Nantes  after a wave of violent youth demonstrations saw cars and shopping centres set ablaze.

Young people from the poorest housing estates in the city have reacted in outrage to the death of a driver at hands of police officers.

The French national and regional governments are struggling to defuse the situation, despite promising a full in-depth investigation into the incident.

A 22-year-old man identified publcly as Aboubakar F was shot dead after his car had been stopped for an identity check. 

Local eyewitnesses to the shooting have contradicted the police account, which claimed that the driver had tried to run them down.

In response to the death, two days of unrest have ripped through the picturesque city in western France.

Footage of the violence last night shows protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers.

The youths have also torched at least three vehicles, a shopping centre and a library during clashes with police.

This morning, police reinforcements were deployed to Nantes to safeguard the city, amid fears the riots will intensify. 

The full circumstances in which the 22-year-old driver died on Tuesday are being investigated by police.

Johanna Rolland, the Socialist mayor of Nantes, said any investigation must take place independently and with full transparency.

According to the police, the victim was pulled over during the roadside check but his identity was “not clear and officers received orders to bring the driver to the police station”.

However, the driver refused to comply with orders, tried to reverse his car “at a very high speed” and had hit another officer.

In reaction, another police officer shot the man, who later died of his wounds.

Local police chief Jean-Christophe Bertrand said the victim’s vehicle had been under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation.

He also claimed that an arrest warrant had been issued for the man last year on suspicion that he was involved in organised robbery.

However, one witness denied this account, telling French media that the car was stationary when the shot was fired.

They told BFMTV: “It was already stationary. He couldn’t do anything. The policeman came up and shot him at point-blank range.”

Another witnesses told Europe 1 Radio: “There was no policeman behind his car when he reversed. All he was trying to do was avoid being checked by the police.”

Pierre Sennes, the Nantes chief prosecutor, said police were investigating “the facts and in what circumstances the police officer used his weapon.”

Local MP Valerie Oppelt tweeted: “Nantes was the scene of violence last night. I appeal for calm. An investigation is under way to learn the circumstances of this tragedy.

“My thoughts go out to the residents of the Breil neighborhood.”

France’s Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said: “I’m appealing for absolute calm, as the rule of law will be completely respected.”

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