Probing Death Amidst Marseille Riots: Police Investigation

As France calculates the cost of its most serious urban unrest in nearly two decades, investigators are looking into the murder of a man who may have been killed by a police rubber bullet during rioting in Marseille.

Prosecutors in Marseille, a southern port wracked by some of the worst clashes, said a 27-year-old man riding a scooter had been found dead overnight Saturday to Sunday and was believed to have suffered a heart attack.

Prosecutor Dominique Laurens said he had opened an investigation into “a death involving the use of a weapon” that appeared to be consistent with a projectile known as a “flashball”.

If confirmed, the death would be the first reported during the week-long riots, which were sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old teenager of North African origin during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on June 27.

In northeastern France, a family has filed a complaint accusing security forces of “intentional violence” on Friday that has left their 25-year-old son fighting for his life in hospital.

Security guard Aimene Bahouh was driving with his window open on the way to a petrol station after work when he “was hit by a projectile” in the head, a family member who asked not to be named told AFP.

The relative and the family lawyer said elite RAID police officers had fired projectiles known as “bean bags” after coming under a barrage of rocks from rioters.

France’s IGPN police inspectorate at Metz is investigating the case.

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Down to 16 arrests a night

The defence ministry said on Wednesday that the navy was looking into claims that masked off-duty marines tackled rioters in the western city of Lorient, home to a major military base.

Local media published pictures of “anti-rioters” in hoods and masks beating up and apprehending suspected troublemakers in the city on Friday night.

The Ouest France newspaper published an interview with a 25-year-old who said he was a member of the armed forces and intervened along with 30 colleagues to support police so as to “not leave the country to burn”.

Overnight on Tuesday-Wednesday, 45,000 security forces were again deployed nationwide, with the interior ministry reporting the second mostly calm evening in a row.

Only 16 arrests were made linked to public disorder nationwide — compared with a peak of 1,300 in a single night Friday-Saturday.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin updated senators on the destruction by often teenage mobs in deprived, multi-ethnic areas of French cities where many complain of racism and discrimination.

Around 23,000 fires had been lit and 273 buildings belonging to the security forces had been damaged, along with 168 schools and 105 mayor’s offices. More than 3,500 people had been arrested, with their average age 17.

“We can see calm returning nationwide but remain very alert for the coming hours and days,” Darmanin said.

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