Home News Hundreds of French police deployed amid New Caledonia riots | New Caledonia

Hundreds of French police deployed amid New Caledonia riots | New Caledonia

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Hundreds of French police deployed amid New Caledonia riots | New Caledonia

Armed forces were protecting New Caledonia’s two airports and port and hundreds of French police were on their way to the Pacific territory after a third night of violent riots that have killed four people.

In three municipalities of the French collectivity, gendarmes faced about 5,000 rioters, including between 3,000 and 4,000 in the capital, Noumea, said France’s high commissioner, Louis Le Franc.

By Thursday, 200 people had been arrested, and 64 gendarmes and police injured, while road barricades put up by the protesters were causing a “dire situation” for medicine and food for the population, Le Franc added.

France declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia starting at 5am on Wednesday, giving authorities additional powers to ban gatherings and forbid people from moving around the island.

Unrest continues in New Caledonia as France passes bill changing territory’s voting rules – video

Police reinforcements added 500 officers to the 1,800 usually present on the island after rioters torched vehicles and businesses and looted stores.

Noumea resident Yoan Fleurot said he had seen looting and destruction of properties. Some store owners let their shelves be raided, pleading that their shops not be destroyed, he said.

The roadblocks were difficult to pass through, and he had been subjected to insults and threats of violence, he said.

“I am New Caledonian, but I no longer know my country any more,” he said.

“Caledonia will have a hard time recovering from this crisis … Everything, 80%, is destroyed.”

A resident wears a white armband, showing intention to watch over a neighbourhood in a peaceful manner, at a roadblock set up by residents in the Magenta district of Noumea. Photograph: Theo Rouby/AFP/Getty Images

Main and secondary roads in Noumea were blocked by barricades with burning cars and their shells – some with booby traps of gas bottles and ignition systems, Le Franc said.

“I am calling on those at the head of the CCAT to stop these actions, which are murderous, deadly actions that can leave families in mourning,” he said, referring to the Field Action Co-ordination Cell (CCAT), organisers of the protests that began on Monday.

He said CCAT was “an organisation of thugs which engages in acts of violence”, and differentiated it from the main pro-independence party, FLNKS, and other pro-independence political groups.

FLNKS has condemned the violence and called for dialogue to resolve the situation.

There had been confrontations between active members of CCAT and self-defence groups or militias formed to protect themselves, he said, adding the militia were also in breach of the curfew and the ban on carrying weapons.

Rioting broke out over a bill adopted by the French parliament in Paris on Tuesday that will let non-Caledonian French who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years vote in provincial elections – a move some local leaders say will dilute the indigenous Kanak vote.

Three young Kanak have died in the riots, while a 24-year-old police officer died from a gunshot wound.

A state of emergency has been imposed for 12 days and authorities have banned the video app TikTok.

Electoral reform is the latest flashpoint in decades of dispute over France’s role in the mineral-rich island collectivity, which lies in the south-west Pacific 1,500km (930 miles) east of Australia.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, said Australians were advised to reconsider their need to travel to New Caledonia due to “civil unrest, travel disruption and limited essential services”.

“Again I repeat and take this opportunity to repeat Australia’s call for calm. We respect and support the referendum process … and the discussions under way between all parties, and encourage all parties to work together cooperatively to shape the future of New Caledonia.”

With Reuters

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