French Riots: 'Urban Guerilla Warfare'

Sebastian Roché believes that it's too early to know if the violence will spread. Police representatives told ABC News that the potential for further escalation "is of great concern."

Three local mayors said that the situation in the suburbs since 2005 had not only failed to improve but has indeed worsened. "In the autumn of 2005, French politicians seemed to wake up to the serious problems in the suburbs," wrote Claude Dilain, Stéphane Gatignon and François Pupponi in the daily newspaper Le Monde.

"Yet the situation continues to deteriorate. All the data points to increases in social exclusion, unemployment, street violence … communities are unravelling, and when people feel abandoned, they have a tendency to turn in on themselves."

ONZUS, a government agency that monitors urban areas, confirmed that despite a small drop in crime since 2005, unemployment in these neighborhoods remained twice as high as the national average.

France's political parties, and the families of the killed teenagers, have condemned the latest violence and urged for calm. While on an official visit to China today, Nicolas Sarkozy called for the justice system to take its course and determine who is responsible.

Wednesday the French president is expected to visit injured police officers in the hospital, meet the families of the killed teenagers and convene a meeting of ministers to discuss his government's response.

As Interior Minister during the 2005 riots, Sarkozy caused considerable controversy when he declared that the restive suburbs needed "cleansing," and described the youths as "rabble."

Police commander Mohamed Douhane told ABC News today that a minority of young people in the French suburbs reject state institutions, and the police in particular. "They use an excuse, a tragic event in this case, to express their hatred of society by the most violent means."

Christophe Schpoliansky reported from Paris.

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