Police are still looking for a woman who was attacked by a mugger on a Paris metro train a week ago as part of their inquiry into the death of a 33-year-old Indian man. 

"/> Police are still looking for a woman who was attacked by a mugger on a Paris metro train a week ago as part of their inquiry into the death of a 33-year-old Indian man. 

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CRIME

Police seek mugging victim in metro case

Police are still looking for a woman who was attacked by a mugger on a Paris metro train a week ago as part of their inquiry into the death of a 33-year-old Indian man. 

The attack on line 7 of the metro on Thursday evening prompted a fellow passenger, Rajinder Singh, to intervene to help the woman. He became involved in a struggle with the mugger, which spilled off the train and onto the platform. Mr Singh died when he was pushed or fell onto the train tracks and was electrocuted.

The woman, described as young and blonde, has not yet come forward. She will be able to provide important evidence to police as part of their inquiry.

Police arrested a 22-year-old Egyptian man on Tuesday in connection with the incident after identifying him from video surveillance footage. He was picked up by police in a bar in the Pigalle area of the city on Tuesday evening after receiving a call from someone who had seen the suspect.

Two government ministers visited the Crimée metro station on Wednesday to pay their respects to Mr Singh, known to his family and friends as Babu, who had moved to Paris seven years ago from his native Punjab in India.

Transport minister Thierry Marani and culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand laid a wreath at the makeshift shrine in the station. 

“He was a hero,” said Mariani. “He came to France, didn’t cause any trouble, worked, sent money to his family and was respectful of certain values. I find it very moving.”

Mariani also confirmed that the costs of sending Mr Singh’s body home to India would be covered by the Paris transport authority RATP.

Frédéric Mitterrand paid his respects to “poor Babu who was one of the everyday heros who make life better” and who “represented everything that is wonderful about the Indian culture, the sharing and the caring for others.”

See also: Metro hero’s family hopes for Indian funeral, Metro death suspect held by Paris police

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WILDFIRES

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

On the ground, two officers from a special mobile brigade of France's paramilitary gendarmerie speed along a forest track.

French police track forest fire-starters by air and land

Above them, a helicopter scans the landscape to warn them of any fires or anyone who might be looking to start one.

These are the members of a newly created police team who have just started patrolling in southwest France to seek out and arrest the fire-starters devastating the region’s forests.

In the last week, no less than 20 fires have broken out in the forest bordering the seaside resort of Soulac-sur-Mer in the La Gironde department of southwest France, says the local gendarmerie.

While some have burned for just a 100 square metres (322 square feet), the largest devoured 30 hectares (74 acres) of forest.

Scorched trees and charred trunks line the paths and cycle paths that criss-cross the woods.

To stop the devastation, local officials have sent in the new unit, the Forest Vigilance Platoon (PVF) made up of 15 reservist gendarmes, a senior police officer and two motorcyclists from the mobile brigade, backed up by the
helicopter.

Spread across three zones, the PVF patrol the forest on motorbikes, all-terrain bicycles or in cars, where possible, on the hunt for fire-starters.

Set up just last week they started patrolling on Thursday.

The idea is that the PVF will free up firefighters who have been stretched thin battling blazes that since Tuesday have burned up 7,400 hectares of pine forests at the southern end of Gironde.

“After the major fires in July, we observed a rise in the number of arson cases,” said Martin Guespereau, deputy prefect for defence and security in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, which covers the Gironde.

“There are around twenty fires of unknown origin a day in Gironde.”

¬†According to France’s National Forests Office (ONF) nine out of 10 fires were started by people — and three out of 10 were started deliberately.

Forest off-limits

“The Forest Vigilance Platoon is a support division, whose aim is to prevent, detect and possible to arrest,” said Captain Christophe Roque, who was given the job of putting the team together.

Red-and-white signs at the edge of the Soulac-sur-Mer forest inform walkers that due to the “very severe” risk of fire, the forest is off-limits to the public until further notice — and has been since August 11.

A few cyclists were nevertheless out on the trails on Saturday, and were quickly intercepted by the gendarmes of the PVF.

“As soon as we come across someone, we get their identity,” said one member of the team, Bruno Kechtoff. “Because if we come across the same person several times, then that becomes suspicious.”

A message comes over the radio: two outbreaks of fire barely 500 metres (yards) apart, near Bazas, south of Bordeaux, the regional capital. A local has reported seeing someone on a moped wearing “yellow-trimmed” trousers”.

The LVF’s helicopter veers off towards Bazas, 130 kilometres away (80 miles) away.

Where they are sent next depends on where the next fires break out, says Constable Jeremy Hernandez. “We have been called here urgently but we can move if other areas are concerned.”

Then they are in their car and driving off, siren wailing, on the look-out for a quad reported in the woods.

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