July 17, 2010 / 11:32 AM / in 7 years

Violence in French city after police shooting

PARIS (Reuters) - Rioters burnt cars, attacked a tramway and shot at police in the French city of Grenoble overnight in protest at the death of a local man fleeing police after allegedly holding up the city’s casino.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux was to travel to the southeastern city on Saturday to monitor events, his office said.

The violence began around midnight on Friday and lasted through the night in the poor suburban neighbourhood of Villeneuve, home to the alleged robber.

Police said they intervened after local residents stopped a tramway by setting a fire on the rails and stoned it. Some 30 cars were burnt and police said they were shot at once and returned fire. No casualties were reported.

The trouble followed a hold-up in a casino in nearby Uriage-les-Bains by two armed men in the early hours of Friday.

Police said the duo fled with 20,000-40,000 euros and were chased by police. Police said the suspects opened fire, wounding an officer, and one of the suspected robbers was killed in the ensuing shooting.

The second man fled into Villeneuve, where police helicopters flew overhead for much of the night in a fruitless attempt to locate him.

The riot in Grenoble recalled civil unrest that exploded across France in late 2005 after two teenagers from a rough Parisian suburb died as they were fleeing police.

The deaths touched off almost three weeks of riots across the country, often in the rough suburbs that ring France’s major cities. These high-rise neighbourhoods, built in the 1950s and 1960s to house a growing population of industrial workers and immigrants, have become near-ghettos where unemployment is high, public services are poor, and resentment boils.

During the 2005 riots, some 300 buildings and 10,000 cars were burnt, while 130 police and rioters were hurt.

Since then, unrest has flared often after residents have run ins with the police.

Police and government officials have a lingering fear that the poor suburbs could explode again because the underlying causes -- high unemployment, few opportunities, drug trafficking and a sense of exclusion from society -- have changed little.

Police unions have raised concerns about a rise in violent crime spurred by the recession and a resurgence of drug trafficking in some areas.

Reporting by Thierry Lévêque, Jean-Philippe Lefief, and Catherine Lagrange in Lyon; writing by Leila Abboud

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