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CRIME

Bag-snatcher chased by crowd, beaten and stabbed on Paris street

A man who snatched a bag from a tourist on the street in the north of Paris was chased by a hostile crowd, beaten and then left in a critical condition bleeding from two stab wounds to the stomach.

Bag-snatcher chased by crowd, beaten and stabbed on Paris street
AFP
The incident happened on Monday evening in the district just north of Gare du Nord known as “Little Jaffna” due to the high number of Sri Lankan shops and restaurants there.
 
When bystanders saw the theft taking place, about a dozen of them chased the 26-year-old down the street and when they caught him began beating him before leaving him on the footpath and making off, Le Parisien newspaper reported.
 
Locals alerted the police about what they thought was a brawl and when officers arrived on the scene at Rue Cail in the 10th arrondissement, they found the young man lying semi-conscious and bleeding on the ground.
 
Next to him lay the bag he had grabbed from a Sri Lankan tourist a few minutes before.
 
The police officers quickly saw that he had two knife wounds to the stomach and called for an ambulance. The man was brought to hospital in a critical condition, according to Le Parisien.
 
The paper said that police efforts to find eyewitnesses to the incident drew a blank.
 
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Tourists, particularly foreign ones, are frequently targeted by thieves and pickpockets in Paris. But it is rare for them to be pursued by passers-by after their act of crime.
 
The “Little Jaffna” neighbourhood is a bustling district lined with shops and restaurants run by Sri Lankans, and Tamil is the main language heard on the streets.
 

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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