How the police shooting of an Arab teenager in Paris sparked a nationwide crisis  

Special How the police shooting of an Arab teenager in Paris sparked a nationwide crisis  
Firefighters work to put out a burning car on the sidelines of a demonstration in Nanterre, west of Paris. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2023
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How the police shooting of an Arab teenager in Paris sparked a nationwide crisis  

How the police shooting of an Arab teenager in Paris sparked a nationwide crisis  
  • French President Emmanuel Macron has described the killing of Nahel M. on Tuesday as “inexplicable” and “inexcusable”
  • The shooting has revived the debate in France about whether or not police officers should be allowed to carry firearms

PARIS: The bullet could have been aimed a tire to immobilize the illegally driven vehicle. Instead, it pierced the chest of a 17-year-old boy. That was how Nahel M. was killed on Tuesday, shot dead by a French police officer who was trying to make him comply.

Nahel, who was stopped by officers for driving a vehicle without a license, was killed at around 8:15 a.m. on June 27 near Nelson Mandela Square in Nanterre, Hauts-de-Seine, in the French capital, Paris.

His mother, Mounia M., a healthcare professional, said she said goodbye to her son that morning to go to work, the same as any other day. “We left at the same time,” she told the French media.

Footage of the shooting, which has been verified by media outlets including Le Monde, showed two police officers standing at the driver’s side of the vehicle, one of them aiming his firearm at the driver.

When the car suddenly pulled away, the officer opened fire, hitting the driver in the chest. The video, which quickly went viral, disproved earlier police claims that the vehicle was heading toward the two officers with the intention of hitting them.

As the footage spread on Tuesday, residents of Nanterre and other nearby areas took to the streets to condemn the shooting and the apparent attempt by police to cover up what really happened.




Youth watch a street with burning tyres in Bordeaux, south-western France. (AFP)

According to a figures released by French authorities on Wednesday morning, 31 arrests were made overnight during clashes between police and residents of Nanterre, Asnieres, Colombes, Clichy-sous-Bois and Mantes-la-Jolie.

The next day, as he attempted to calm the unrest, French President Emmanuel Macron described the shooting as “inexplicable” and “inexcusable.”

Speaking during a visit to Marseille, he said that “nothing, nothing justifies the death of a young person,” as he cited the “emotion of the entire nation” and expressed “respect and affection” for Nahel’s family.

Gerald Darmanin, the French interior minister, described the footage of the shooting as “extremely shocking” and expressed his desire to discover “the whole truth about what happened and, while respecting the time of justice, as quickly as possible.”

At the National Assembly, deputies paused during parliamentary business to observe a minute’s silence as a tribute to Nahel.

The shooting has revived the debate in France about whether or not police officers should be armed. A law allowing them to carry firearms was adopted in February 2017 in response to the shooting of four officers in Viry-Chatillon in October 2016.




Police officers clash with protesters in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre. (AFP)

Since then, officers have been permitted, under Article 435-1 of the Internal Security Code, to use firearms “in cases of absolute necessity and strictly proportionate manner,” especially in the case of a refusal to comply when a driver “is likely to commit … attacks on their life or that of third parties.”

Given the footage of Nahel’s killing, the officers involved have been criticized for not responding to the incident in a “strictly proportionate manner,” and face accusations of excessive use of force, a culture of impunity, and even claims of racism.

In an interview with TV channel France 5, Nahel’s mother, Mounia, accused the officer who killed her son of targeting the teenager because of his race, and called for him to receive a stiff prison sentence. However, she stopped short of condemning the French police service as a whole.

“I don’t blame the police,” she said. “I blame one person, the one who took my son’s life. He had no right to kill my son. To hit him or get him out, yes, but not with a bullet. It’s the fault of one man, not a system.

“He saw the face of an Arab, of a young boy, and he wanted to take his life away from him … I expect him to pay for my son’s pain, for the punishment to match my pain. He killed my son. He killed me,” she added, pleading for “truly firm justice, not six months and then he’s out.”

Several public figures, including Marseille-based rap artists Jul and SCH, reacted to Nahel’s death on social media. On Wednesday, SCH tweeted his “full support” for Nahel’s loved ones and “our neighborhoods.”

Rohff, also a rapper, tweeted: “Lack of a license or a refusal to comply should not allow a police officer who is not in danger to commit murder in public.”

On Wednesday morning, Kylian Mbappe, the captain of the French national football team, expressed his anger, describing the incident as “unacceptable.”

In a message posted on Twitter, he wrote: “My heart aches for my France.”

French actor Omar Sy, star of the Netflix TV series “Lupin,” tweeted: “My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and loved ones of Nahel, who died at 17 … killed by a police officer in Nanterre. May a proper justice honor the memory of this child.”

Far from fizzling out, the violent unrest that began on Tuesday night continued into Wednesday. Before 10pm, the situation was calm in Nanterre. As it was the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha, men, women and children dressed in festive attire could be seen out and about in the capital of Hauts-de-Seine.




A pedestrian takes an image as she walks by burnt vehicles on a street in Lyon, south-eastern France. (AFP)

After nightfall, however, young people dressed in black, their faces concealed by hoods or scarves, spilled onto the streets. The first skirmishes broke out in the Vieux-Pont neighborhood, where at least two cars were set on fire.

The heart of the riots was in the Pablo Picasso neighborhood, a maze of winding alleys around the famous Nuage Towers, built in the 1970s. Clashes also took place throughout Ile-de-France, with thick black smoke and exploding fireworks visible from the A86 highway. About 2,000 police officers were mobilized to bring the riot under control.

On Thursday, the police officer who fired the fatal shot was charged with voluntary manslaughter and taken into custody, according to the prosecutor’s office. His arrest was not enough to prevent further unrest.

Nahel’s mother, Mounia, called on residents to join a “White March” for Nahel at the place where he died. More than 6,000 people turned out, with shouts of “justice for Nahel” and “never again” ringing out among the crowd.

The march started peacefully but soon descended into violence, with further clashes between protesters and riot police. At least 421 arrests were made across France overnight, including 242 in the Paris region alone.

By Friday, the public outrage had spread to Lille, Marseille and Bordeaux, as well as Paris and its suburbs, along with several smaller towns where such disturbances are rare, including Denain near Roubaix, a town of about 20,000 inhabitants. There were violent clashes and major acts of vandalism in all these places.

Yannick Landraud, a union representative for Police Alliance 75, said that protesters had fired projectiles at riot police “from close range,” injuring several officers.

Although there is growing support for a more robust crackdown on the rioters, Landraud cautioned against declaring a state of emergency too soon on the grounds that it might not be respected and could give the impression the state had failed.

“And what will come next?” he asked. “It won’t stop. They are in a pattern where they will gather every night … To what level of violence will we escalate?”




A municipal employee walks past broken windows of The Coliseum of Roubaix Theatre in Roubaix, northern France. (AFP)

Nahel’s funeral is due to take place on Saturday and further unrest was expected. During a crisis meeting on Friday, the second in 24 hours, Macron showed resolve in the face of the intense public pressure. After denouncing what he called the “unacceptable exploitation of the death of a teenager” by some groups among the rioters, he announced the deployment of “additional resources” by the Ministry of the Interior.

He also called on “all parents to take responsibility” for their children and to refuse to allow them to join the rioters. Local precautions have also been taken, including the early closure of all public transportation services.

For now, it seems, Macron recognizes the need to tread a fine line and strike a delicate balance between firmness and compassion, security and understanding, and the need for peace — but also justice for Nahel.


UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war
Updated 23 May 2024
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UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

UK defense minister says China sending ‘lethal aid’ to Russia for Ukraine war

LONDON: China is sending “lethal aid” to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine, Britain’s defense minister Grant Shapps said on Wednesday.
“Today I can reveal that we have evidence that Russia and China are collaborating on combat equipment for use in Ukraine,” he said in a speech at a London conference.
Shapps warned that NATO needed to “wake up” and bolster defense spending across the alliance.
“US and British defense intelligence can reveal that lethal aid is now flowing from China to Russia and into Ukraine.”
He argued that democratic states should make a “full-throated case” for freedoms that are dependent on the international order, meaning “we need more allies and partners” worldwide.
“It’s time for the world to wake up. And that means translating this moment to concrete plans and capabilities. And that starts with laying the foundations for an alliance-wide increase in spending on our collective deterrent,” he said.
China and Russia’s strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine, but Beijing has rebuffed Western claims that it is aiding Moscow’s war effort.
China has also offered a critical lifeline to Russia’s isolated economy, with trade booming since the invasion and hitting $240 billion in 2023, according to Chinese customs figures.
US President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, however, appeared to take issue with some of Shapps’s comments.
He said the possibility that China might “provide weapons directly — lethal assistance — to Russia” had been a concern earlier, but that “we have not seen that to date.”
The United States did though have a “concern about what China’s doing to fuel Russia’s war machine, not giving weapons directly, but providing inputs to Russia’s defense industrial base,” he added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin put on a strong show of unity during a meeting in Beijing earlier this month.
Xi said in a statement following talks with Putin during his visit that the two sides agreed on the need for a “political solution” to resolve the war.


Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah
Updated 23 May 2024
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Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

Colombia to open embassy in Ramallah

BOGOTA: Colombia, whose president has described Israel’s campaign in Gaza as “genocidal,” said Wednesday it will open an embassy in Ramallah in the Palestinian territories.

Foreign Minister Luis Murillo told reporters that President Gustavo Petro — an ardent critic of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu — had given instructions “that we install the embassy of Colombia in Ramallah” in the West Bank.

The announcement came on the same day Ireland, Norway and Spain announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, more than seven months into the devastating Gaza war.

An unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

The militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Colombia severed ties with Israel as Petro called Netanyahu “genocidal.”

Earlier this month, he called for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for the Israeli leader.

On Monday, the prosecutor of that court said he has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, his defense minister and top Hamas leaders.


UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
Updated 23 May 2024
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UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations

UCLA police chief reassigned following criticism over handling of campus demonstrations
  • The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position

LOS ANGELES: The police chief at the University of California, Los Angeles, has been reassigned following criticism over his handling of recent campus demonstrations that included a mob attacking a pro-Palestinian encampment.
Chief John Thomas was temporarily reassigned Tuesday “pending an examination of our security processes,” said Mary Osako, UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications, in a statement released Wednesday.
The Daily Bruin reported late Tuesday that Thomas said in a text to the campus newspaper, “There’s been a lot going on and, I learned late yesterday that I’m temporarily reassigned from my duties as chief.”
Neither Osako nor Thomas identified his reassigned role.
The reassignment of Thomas follows UCLA’s May 5 announcement of the creation of a new chief safety officer position to oversee campus security operations.
On April 30, counterdemonstrators attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment, throwing traffic cones, releasing pepper spray and tearing down barriers. Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, and no one was arrested. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries.
Thomas told the Los Angeles Times in early May that he did “everything I could” to provide security and keep students safe during days of strife that left UCLA shaken.
But his response was roundly criticized and prompted Chancellor Gene Block to order a review of campus security procedures. Block then announced that Rick Braziel, a former Sacramento police chief, would lead a new Office of Campus Safety that will oversee the UCLA Police Department.
“To best protect our community moving forward, urgent changes are needed in how we administer safety operations,” Block said in the May 5 statement.
Sporadic disruptions continued following the dismantling of a pro-Palestinian encampment and some 200 arrests on April 30.
Block has been summoned to Washington by a Republican-led House committee to testify Thursday about the protests on the Los Angeles campus.
The union that represents more than 250 officers who police the 10 UC campuses criticized Thomas’ reassignment.
“The UCLA administration owns the failure of any protest response, and the public should reject their attempts to shift blame to law enforcement,” Wade Stern, president of the Federated University Peace Officers’ Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “The response to protests appears ad hoc and devoid of the structured planning mandated by the UC system.”


Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations
Updated 23 May 2024
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Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

Pentagon chief tells Israel of need to coordinate humanitarian, military Gaza operations

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant in a call on Wednesday of the need for an effective mechanism to coordinate humanitarian and military operations in Gaza, the Pentagon said.


Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead
Updated 23 May 2024
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Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

Trump claims standard FBI warrant shows Biden wanted him dead

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump drew disbelief — and some support — Wednesday after suggesting that standard language from an FBI search warrant executed in 2022 on his Florida mansion showed that President Joe Biden wanted armed agents to shoot him.

Trump’s latest incendiary claim was in response to a court filing outlining plans for the FBI search at the Mar-a-Lago club, where he kept classified national security documents after leaving the White House.

The filing included standard FBI wording stating that agents are allowed to use deadly force if someone is in imminent danger.

But Trump, who is running to unseat Biden in November’s election, distorted the statement to say that it showed the Justice Department was ready to shoot him and harm his family.

“It’s just been revealed that Biden’s DOJ was authorized to use DEADLY FORCE for their DESPICABLE raid in Mar-a-Lago. You know they’re just itching to do the unthinkable,” Trump said Tuesday in a fundraising email shared by US media.

“Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger. He thinks he can frighten me, intimidate me, and KNOCK ME DOWN!“

The wild remarks add to the pile of false claims made by Trump against Biden, whom he has repeatedly accused without evidence of weaponizing the justice system to target him.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for all lawmakers to condemn Trump’s “outlandish and dangerous” remarks in a speech in the upper chamber of Congress.

“We cannot let this man, Donald Trump, or anybody else, throw these kinds of matches to light flames that could burn our democracy,” he said.

David Axelrod, a White House aide under Barack Obama, called Trump’s comments “patently nuts...and dangerously provocative” in a post on X.

But several of Trump’s staunchest allies joined Trump in misrepresenting the court filing.

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene posted on X that the Justice Department and the FBI “gave the green light” to assassinate Trump.

On the day of the raid, Trump was not on Florida but at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey.

The FBI issued a rare statement, saying “there was no departure from the norm in this matter.”

The bureau — which recovered more than 100 classified documents, including some marked top secret — got the go-ahead for the raid from a federal judge after the government tried for months to get the records back.

The billionaire is accused of willfully retaining national defense information and obstructing government efforts to recover it.

He denies 40 felony charges, but the trial has been indefinitely postponed.

In a statement to AFP, the Trump campaign said reporting of the fundraising email was “a sickening attempt to run cover for Joe Biden who is the most corrupt president in history and a threat to our democracy.”