French minister promises security in France's neighborhoods

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, after four nights of rioting in a Paris suburb, promised stepped-up security in France's rough neighborhoods on Monday with riot police ensuring order and intelligence agents searching out troublemakers. During a meeting with police officers and firefighters of the Seine-Saint-Denis region, Sarkozy said residents of troubled neighborhoods would get "the security they have a right to."

Six police officers were injured and 11 people detained Sunday in a fourth consecutive night of confrontations between bands of young people and police in Clichy-Sous-Bois, northeast of Paris.

Eight cars were burned and garbage bins set alight, authorities said.

Sarkozy confirmed reports that a tear gas grenade was thrown into a local mosque Sunday night but added that "this doesn't mean it was fired by a police officer." The minister, who planned a meeting with the mosque's imam, or prayer leader, said an investigation would clarify the matter. Rumors that police had attacked the mosque with tear gas fueled the fervor of rioters.

The waves of rioting were triggered by the electrocution deaths Thursday of two teenagers, aged 15 and 17.

The young men had taken refuge in a power substation to escape police who they mistakenly feared were chasing them, officials have said, reportedly basing their information on the account of a third teenager who survived.

Sarkozy said on television Sunday night that, according to his information, police went after another group of youths and were never chasing the two. They had returned to the police station 20 minutes before the deaths, he added.

Big city suburbs, often the home to immigrants with modest incomes, have posed growing security concerns in recent years with mounting delinquency, drug trafficking and other crimes, the AP informs.

Since the start of the year, 9,000 police cars have been stoned and, each night, 20 to 40 cars are torched, Sarkozy said in an interview last week with the newspaper Le Monde, two days before the violence in Clichy-Sous-Bois.

"Some big shots act like they own a territory," Sarkozy was quoted as saying.

The minister said on Monday that 17 companies of riot police would be permanently assigned to difficult neighborhoods along with seven mobile police squads. Plainclothes agents will be sent into some housing projects to "identify gang leaders, traffickers and big shots," the minister said. He promised a national plan to cope with delinquency by year's end.