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Five arrested after Amiens riot

Heavy police reinforcements keep northern city calm after several million euros of damage caused

FIVE young men aged aged 15 to 30 have been arrested in connection with the rioting in Amiens earlier this week.

Sixteen police were injured and three public buildings, including a school and a newly-built gym, were torched during violent confrontations in the Fafet district of the northern city where several officers were hit by shotgun pellets.

The cost of the damage is estimated to run into several million euros after buildings were attacked, windows broken and many vehicles set on fire.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls - who was barracked and jostled by youths when he visited the city on Tuesday - ordered heavy police reinforcements to restore order. Last night there were 250 officers on the streets of the Somme capital, nearly 10 times the usual number, including two companies of CRS riot police with water cannons.

The prefecture said it passed without major incident. It was the second night of calm, and the prefect praised the "effectiveness of the police". Valls said the reinforcements would remain in place "for the coming days and nights".

As police made the first arrests they said two of the men had been caught trying to start a fire. Photographs, CCTV footage and police videos are being examined to try to identify other youths involved in the attacks.

The Fafet district was identified by Valls last month as one of the 15 priority security zones in France but right-wing opponents say that the government is sending out conflicting signals with its recent announcements on the removal of mandatory minimum sentences.

Unemployment in Fafet is as high as 45% with two out of three under-25s without work and Gilles Demailly, the Socialist mayor of Amiens, said that effective policing had been hit by heavy police cuts over the five years of the Sarkozy government.

Meanwhile, the prefecture has also ordered an inquiry into the causes of the disturbances - which some residents had said came as a result of heavy-handed policing during a memorial ceremony for a 20-year-old killed in a scooter accident.
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