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Cars, warehouse burn in French niqab riot town

Police patrol inTrappes
Police patrol inTrappes AFP

A warehouse was ablaze near the riot-hit French town of Trappes on Sunday after a second night of clashes between police and youths protesting over the allegedly brutal arrest of a woman wearing Islamic face cover.

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Thick black smoke issued from the former furniture warehouse, which has been empty for

two or three months according to Trappes mayor Guy Malandain, as firefighters battled the blaze midday Sunday.

The origin of the fire has not yet been established.

About 20 cars were set on fire and four people were arrested in the town overnight, according to Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who said that a “significant” police presence would be maintained in the area until calm was restored.

Police sources say that about 50 people gathered and threw firecrackers at the police and a motorist is reported to have driven towards a group of officers.

A teenager was in hospital after suffering serious injury to an eye during Friday night’s rioting, officials confirmed late Saturday. Although witnesses say he was injured by a police flashball, public prosecutors said that the origin of the wound remains to be determined.

The man whose arrest sparked the violence was released on Saturday but is due to appear in court in September.

Explainer - the background to France's burka debate

About 30 people went to the Trappes police station before the riot broke out on Friday to press for his release, news agencies report.

The man’s wife claims that police became physically and verbally aggressive after stopping her for wearing a face-covering niqab, illegal under France’s controversial burka ban.

Valls on Sunday repeated his determination to “relentlessly fight anyone who attacks the police, institutions or public or private property”.

The tough talk did not satisfy the right-wing opposition.

Former interior minister Brice Hortefeux inisisted that the government should “have the courage to show severity”, while far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen said that the clashes “are liked to the rise of a harmful communitarianism exacerbated by mass immigration”.

Abdallah Zekri, the chairman of the Islamophobia Observatory declared himself “revolted by the unacceptable phrases”, condemning “amalgams that pour oil on the flames”.

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