Police cuts reversed after Amiens riots

France's Socialist government pledged on Thursday to reverse the recent shrinkage of police numbers in the wake of rioting that devastated part of the northern city of Amiens.

Police cuts reversed after Amiens riots
Chris Brown

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said plans to axe 3,000 posts next year in the gendarmerie and the national police would be scrapped and that the two

forces would benefit from the creation of 500 posts per year from 2013 onwards.

The additional numbers are relatively insignificant in comparison with France's total of more than 200,000 paramilitary gendarmes and police but
politically significant in the current climate.

The extra officers will be deployed mainly in the new "priority security zones" the government plans to establish in 15 of France's most troubled
neighbourhoods from September in an effort to prevent further cases of the violence that erupted in Amiens this week.

Amiens police said on Thursday they had made five arrests in connection with the violence in the city's deprived northern quarter on Monday night.

All five, two of them minors, have been detained on suspicion of public order offences on the basis of thermal images taken from a police helicopter
during rioting which caused six million euros ($7.2 million) worth of damage to public buildings and left 16 police injured.

Police made no arrests during the unrest, apparently for fear of further inflaming the situation.

But Valls has vowed to bring to justice those responsible for torching a school and sports centre and for firing live ammunition at the police.

"The investigation is ongoing," a police spokesman said. "These are only the first arrests."

One of the five arrested was a suspected ringleader of the rioters and has been charged with incitement to rebellion, a serious crime under French law
which can be punished by a prison term of up to 10 years if the perpetrator was armed at the time of the offence. 

Residents of Amiens' northern quarter say this week's eruption of violence was the result of years of police harassment of youth in a neighbourhood where
two out of three people under 25 are out of work.

That depiction of events is disputed by the local police, who say they are fighting a losing battle against a culture of criminality.

The neighbourhood has been quiet since the early hours of Tuesday thanks to a total police presence of 250 officers, including 100 riot police equipped
with water cannons.

The heavy police presence is expected to remain in place until the weekend at least.

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Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

A Frenchwoman and a Spaniard were killed and nine other mountaineers were injured on Friday in an ice fall in southwest Switzerland, police said following a rescue attempt involving several helicopters.

Two mountaineers killed and 9 injured in ice fall in Swiss mountains

Police received calls at 6.20 am reporting that mountaineers had been caught up in falling seracs — columns of glacial ice formed by crevasses — on the Grand Combin, a glacial massif near the Italian border in the Wallis region.

Seven helicopters with mountain rescue experts flew to the scene, finding 17 mountaineers split among several groups.

“Two people died at the scene of the accident,” Wallis police said in a statement. They were a 40-year-old Frenchwoman and a 65-year-old man from Spain.

Nine mountaineers were airlifted to hospitals in nearby Sion and in Lausanne. Two of them are seriously injured, police said.

Other mountaineers were evacuated by helicopter.

The regional public prosecutor has opened an investigation “to determine the circumstances of this event”, the police said.

The serac fall happened at an altitude of 3,400 metres in the Plateau de Dejeuner section along the Voie du Gardien ascent route.

The Grand Combin massif has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire at 4,314 metres.

The police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said.

“The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”