PARIS (Reuters) -Ignoring the government”s threat of a curfew, youths rioted for the 12th night in France, torching more than 800 vehicles around the country and injuring four police, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
The nightly protests against racism and unemployment dropped markedly in the greater Paris region, where violence had escalated to the point of shooting at police, but continued unabated in other parts of France, a ministry statement showed.
The renewed violence followed a warning by Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin that he would take a firm line against lawbreakers, including reinforcements for police and curfews not seen here since the Algerian war of 1954-1962.
Villepin”s cabinet was due to meet on Tuesday to approve the new measures. A town east of Paris imposed its own curfew on minors on Monday evening and another to the west of the capital organized citizen patrols to help the police.
"Wherever it is necessary, prefects will be able to impose a curfew," Villepin said, referring to the senior officials responsible for security in departments around the country.
The prime minister urged citizens to pitch in to fight the violence, which began after the accidental electrocution of two youths fleeing the police near Paris and spiraled into nightly hit-and-run attacks on cars, buses, shops and schools.
"It”s important to mobilize everyone to send out a message of calm and control," he said on TF1 television. "Residents, neighbours, parents — anyone who can help restore calm, especially among the young, can do useful work."
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 814 vehicles were torched overnight, a drop from 1,408 the previous night. The number of injured police officers also fell sharply from 36 on Sunday night to four overnight. Some 143 rioters were detained.
Villepin said 1,500 police and gendarmes would be brought in to back up the 8,000 officers already deployed in areas hit by unrest. He also promised to accelerate urban renewal programs.
But he dismissed growing calls for army intervention, saying: "We have not reached that point."
The opposition Socialists said Villepin had not done enough to give hope to those people in areas hit by the unrest, which has involved poor whites as well as French-born citizens of Arab or African origin complaining of racism and unemployment.
"Beyond the necessary calls for order, what was missing in the prime minister”s address was a social dimension, a message and precise commitments toward the people of these areas in difficulty," the Socialist Party said in a statement.
In Toulouse, youths set fire to a bus and 21 cars, police said. At least two cars were set ablaze near Lille and two more in Strasbourg, Reuters reporters said.
Police said 14 cars were set alight in the Yvelines district west of Paris and 17 in Seine-Saint-Denis north of the capital, home to many Arab and African immigrants where the unrest began.
On Monday, a man died after being beaten on Friday in the northern Paris suburb of Stains.
The conservative government has struggled to formulate a response that could halt the unrest, which was sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and harsh treatment by police.
A youth who was badly burned when his two friends were electrocuted in an electricity substation they took refuge in called for calm in a statement read by his lawyer.
"All this violence is not good because it won”t bring back my friends. It”s better that it stops," the 17-year-old said.
The violence has prompted warnings that the unrest could damage investment and tourism in France.
The U.S. embassy in Paris issued a new warning on Monday to Americans traveling in France to be careful after Sunday night”s violence in which three schools and two churches were attacked.