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French cop admits shooting man by accident after 3 nights of riots

A vehicle in flames in Nantes on Thursday night
A vehicle in flames in Nantes on Thursday night Esther DELORD / AFP

A French police officer has admitted shooting a 22-year-old man by accident after three nights of rioting sparked by his death in the eastern French city of Nantes.

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After being taken in for questioning on Thursday afternoon, the police officer changed his version of the events that caused the death of Aboubakar Fofana on Tuesday night.

His earlier claim that he fired in self-defence "was not consistent with the truth", his lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, told the AFP news agency on Friday.

His colleagues who were present at the scene have said that Fofana, who was under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation, reversed at high speed to avoid being stopped nearly running over two children.

But local people who were present have contradicted their account, with a woman who filmed the scene saying there were no police behind his car and he did not knock anyone over.

Riots and protest

Fofana, who was also wanted in the Paris suburb of Créteil for robbery and related offences, was shot in the neck and rushed to hospital, where he later died.

His death has sparked three nights of rioting.

On Thursday night a bar was burnt down, official buildings vandalised and 52 vehicles set on fire, among them the car of the mayor, Johanna Rolland.

But there was no violence in the district where Fofana lived, Breil, following an appeal for calm by his family.

A police car was attacked and bins set on fire in Garges-lès-Gonesse, the town near Paris where Fofana lived previously.

Earlier in the evening about 1,000 people joined a peaceful march in Nantes to demand "Justice for Abou".

On a visit to the city on Thursday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe called for "the fullest transparency" on the incident , while condemning the violence.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb, who was in the southern city of Marseille, promised the government would do "everything possible to calm the situation".

Police attacked near Paris

In a separate development, two off-duty officers, a husband and wife, were attacked on Wednesday night in front of their three-year-old daughter in a north-eastern suburb of Paris shortly after leaving a dinner party.

A police source said the attackers recognised the policewoman because she had recently stopped them for an ID check in the crime-ridden area of Aulnay-sous-Bois.

President Emmanuel Macron denounced the attack as an "appalling and cowardly act" and vowed the suspects would be "found and punished."

One of them has been arrested while the second remains on the run.

History of tension

Relations are tense between the police and local people in many of France's deprived neighbourhoods.

In 2005 riots erupted across the country following the deaths of two black teenagers who were electrocuted while running away from the police in a town near Paris.

There were protests over the death in custody of 24-year-old Adama Traoré in 2016 and more riots last year when a young black man in another Paris suburb suffered severe anal injuries caused by a truncheon during his arrest and

A parliamentary report released Tuesday showed high suicide rates within the police and warned low morale is widespread in the force.

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