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Third French burkini ban after Corsica beach battles

A man draped in the Corsican flag on Sunday's protest in Bastia
A man draped in the Corsican flag on Sunday's protest in Bastia AFP/Pascal Pochard-Casabianca

A third French mayor has banned the burkini swimming costume after clashes on a Corsican beach this weekendthat left five people injured and three cars burnt. The violence was followed by a demonstration in the city of Bastia, during which some protesters marched on a district with many north African residents.

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Following the example of the Riviera resorts of Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet, Sisco mayor Pierre-Ange Vivoni has forbidden women to wear the all-covering swimsuit on his village's beaches.

The ban follows a brawl on a beach on Saturday, which was broken up by 100 police officers, and tense scenes in nearby Bastia the following day.

Police have launched an inquiry into the causes of the beach fighting, which saw three families of north African origin clash with a group of teenagers and their families.

According to one of the teenagers, who addressed a rally of about 400 people in Bastia on Sunday, three north African men started an argument with a tourist they accused of taking photos of the women with them, who were wearing burkinis.

They then came to blows with the teenagers, one of whom was filming the scene on his mobile, and the violence escalated after about 40 villagers arrived.

Four people were hospitalised - a boy and his father, who was stabbed with a harpoon, and two of the north African men.

The villagers then overturned and set fire to the north Africans' cars, while the north African women reportedly slashed several car tyres.

March on north African district

Officials received a delegation during Sunday's demonstration and joined mayor Vivoni in calling for calm.

But about 200 demonstrators marched on the Lupino district, where the city's north African-origin population is concentrated, some shouting "This is our home!" and insulting customers in a café.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve condemned the violence and promised a full investigation and the arrest of those responsible.

On Monday regional leaders Gilles Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni, both members of the main Corsican nationalist party, called for "calm and the rejection of any inappropriate reaction" in a joint statement, adding that the tension that has arisen from the incident "should not rebound on the north African-origin population, the great majority of whom respect our values".

As police interviewed at least four witnesses, Vivoni announced that a local festival would be cancelled "because people are not in the mood" and the burkini would be forbidden in his village as from Tuesday morning.

France's third burkini ban

The ban is France's third, following those in Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet, whose right-wing mayors argued that the garment is in breach of France's secular constitution, the reason for the 2011 national ban on full-face covering, and a threat to public health.

A court in Nice endorsed the Cannes decision on Saturday, ruling that "in the context of the state of emergency and the Nice attack ... forms of beachwear that indicate belief ... are likely to create or exacerbate tension ... and a threat to public order".

The anti-Islamophobia campaign CCIF, which had brought the case along with four individuals, said it would appeal against the decision on Tuesday at the latest.

The bans come in the aftermath of last month's murder of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel in his church and the massacre of 84 people on the beachfront at Nice on Bastille Day, as well as last year's Paris attacks and other cases of jihadist violence.

Last month Corsican politicians called on the government to close radical mosques on the island following a threat from a banned Corsican nationalist splinter group of a "determined" response to any attacks there "without any qualms".

In December protesters attacked a Muslim prayer hall after an assault on firefighters in a largely immigrant neighbourhood.

To read our coverage of France's burka ban click here

To read our coverage of last year's Paris attacks click here

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