SAINT-DIZIER, France - Dozens of hooded youths battered two police vehicles with metal bars, set fire to more than a dozen parked cars and torched a community center in northeast France, officials said Friday.
The rampage in a tough neighborhood in Saint-Dizier, about 120 miles east of Paris, revived memories of a wave of car burnings, vandalism and clashes with police in 2005 fanned by feelings of alienation among French youths of Arab and African origin.
Authorities were not sure what sparked the violence by 30-40 youths late Thursday. The trouble began when firefighters escorted by police entered the Vert-Bois neighborhood in response to a fire alarm.
“There are always high tensions in this housing project,” said Yves Guillot, the state administrator for the Haute-Marne region.
The youths fled the scene and no arrests were made, officials said.
Riot police were called in and ordered to stay in Saint-Dizier through the weekend. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie condemned the violence in a visit to the town.
In late 2005, anger over high unemployment and racial inequalities contributed to a three-week wave of rioting across France. Many of those involved were the French-born children of immigrants from former colonies.
Police have little or no control in some housing projects, where they face insults or attack. Firefighters have also been targeted and sometimes need police escorts.
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