VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France (AFP) — Youths battled police for a second night in Paris suburbs, burning down government buildings and injuring 64 police officers, who stepped up security in troubled towns on Tuesday.
The troubles in six towns north of the French capital -- which were also the scene of major unrest in 2005 -- were sparked by the deaths on Sunday of two teenagers whose motorbike collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel.
Police said that one of five officers who were in critical condition in the latest clashes had been shot.
In Villiers, about 100 youths, crouching behind trash cans, hurled objects at 160 riot police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas.
Young rioters in the nearby towns of Sarcelles, Garges-les-Gonesse, Cergy, Ermont and Goussainville were armed with petrol bombs, bottles filled with acid and baseball bats, police said.
The riots lasted about six hours and continued into the early hours of Tuesday.
After the suburban battleground cleared, a helicopter hovered over Villiers, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Paris, looking for potential troublemakers.
Police said 64 officers were injured in the latest clashes and five were in critical condition.
"One policeman was wounded in the shoulder after being hit by a high-calibre bullet," a security official said.
Police said 63 vehicles and five buildings had been torched. Six people were arrested.
A bus, which had no passengers on board, and a truck were set alight in districts near Villiers, police said.
In Villiers, the town finance department building, a library, a nursery school, a driving school, a supermarket and a beauty salon were set ablaze, government officials said.
Youths stoned a police car and a fire engine and looted another vehicle before setting it ablaze. They beat one French television cameraman and stole his camera.
After Sunday's first night of unrest, President Nicolas Sarkozy appealed for calm, with France fearful of a repeat of the nationwide violence that gripped the country in 2005. That followed the deaths of two youths allegedly fleeing police.
Speaking from China where he is on a state trip, Sarkozy called for "all sides to calm down and for the judiciary to decide who bears responsibility" for the deaths of the teenagers.
State prosecutor Marie-Therese Givry ordered an internal police investigation for "involuntary manslaughter and failure to assist persons in danger".
She said however that witnesses had confirmed the police officers' version that the bike smashed into the side of their car during a routine patrol. Neither youth was wearing a helmet.
But Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the victims, accused police of ramming the motorbike and of running away.
"This is a failure to assist a person in danger... it is 100-percent a (police) blunder. They know it, and that's why they did not stay at the scene," he told France Info radio.
Sehhouli told AFP the rioting "was not violence but an expression of rage."
Police made nine arrests Sunday as rioters torched a police station, two garages, a petrol pump and two shops, and pillaged the railway station in neighbouring Arnouville. Some 40 police were reported injured.
The police union Alliance offered its condolences to the victims' families, but said it was "unacceptable for a gang of delinquents to use this tragedy as an excuse to set the town on fire."
Police and politicians say the French suburbs remain a "tinderbox" two years after the 2005 riots, which exposed France's failure to integrate its large black and Arab population, the children and grandchildren of immigrants from its African colonies.
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