French rioting - first fatality reported

Rioting by French youths spread to 300 towns overnight and a man hurt in the violence died of his wounds - the first fatality in 11 days of unrest. Governments worldwide urged their citizens to be careful in France. As urban violence spread to neighboring Belgium and possibly Germany, the French government faced growing criticism for its inability to stop the violence, despite massive police deployment and continued calls for calm.

Vandals burned more than 1,400 vehicles overnight Sunday, and clashes around the country left 36 police injured, setting a new high for nightly arson and violence since rioting started Oct. 27, France's national police chief, Michel Gaudin, told a news conference.

Australia, Britain, Germany and Japan advised their citizens to exercise care in France, joining the United States, Russia and at least a half dozen other countries in warning tourists to stay away from violence-hit areas, the AP reports.

The victim was identified as 61-year-old Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, who died after being beaten by an attacker. The man, a retired auto industry worker, was trying to extinguish a trash can fire Friday at his housing project in the northeastern suburb of Stains when an attacker caught him by surprise and beat him into a coma, police said.

The mayhem started as an outburst of anger in suburban Paris housing projects and has fanned out nationwide among disaffected youths, mostly of Muslim or African descent, to become France's worst civil unrest in over a decade.

Attacks overnight Sunday to Monday were reported in 274 towns, and police made 395 arrests, Gaudin said.

Among the injured police, 10 were hurt by youths firing fine-grain birdshot in a late-night clash in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. Two were hospitalized, but their lives were not considered in danger. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the legs.

The unrest began Oct. 27 in the low-income Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois after the deaths of two teenagers who were of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent. The youths were accidentally electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation, apparently thinking they were being chased.

All told, 4,700 cars have been burned in France since the rioting began and 1,200 suspects were detained at least temporarily, Gaudin said. A.M.

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