France struggles to halt Dijon unrest

The French government vowed to bring an end to violence in the usually placid eastern city of Dijon after it was hit by several nights of unrest linked to score-settling by members of the Chechen community, AFP reported. According to police, the incidents appear to have been sparked by an assault this month on a 16-year-old Chechen boy, prompting other members of the community to stage reprisal raids.

Chechens reportedly had travelled to Dijon from all over France and even from neighbouring Belgium and Germany. Their actions have focused on the low-income district of Gresilles which has a large community of people originally from North Africa.

On Monday evening, dozens of hooded men carrying arms and crowbars gathered in Gresilles, shooting in the air, destroying video surveillance cameras and setting fire to bins and vehicles, police told AFP. Riot police needed 90 minutes to put an end to the violence, leaving the area calm overnight as bins and cars continued to burn. Four people were detained.

Deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez travelled to Dijon, vowing a "extremely strong response" with more than 150 police and para-military gendarmes mobilised to halt any unrest Tuesday evening. "I want to send a very clear message to the hooligans we have seen brandishing weapons, to the individuals who have come here to commit violence in Dijon," he said upon leaving police headquarters.

The violence in a city shocked France and prompted condemnation from across the political spectrum. "Seeing young people brandishing arms, 100 people fighting, being aggressive, it's unacceptable," Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume told the CNews channel.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who rarely wastes a chance to criticise the government of President Emmanuel Macron for public order failings, said at a press conference in Dijon on Tuesday. "Our country is plunging into chaos! What is (Interior Minister) Christophe Castaner doing? Gangs are going around in ethnic warfare with automatic weapons in their hands," tweeted the National Rally party leader.

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