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French police officer who killed teen apologises as clashes continue for third night and over 600 arrested

A French police officer who shot dead a 17-year-old boy has apologised to the teenager’s family as clashes continued across France for a third night.

The as yet unnamed officer killed Nahel M, who is of Algerian and Moroccan descent, during a traffic stop on Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

The killing has sparked protests across the country, with more than 600 people arrested in connection with the violence.

President Emmanuel Macron, who has called the violence “totally unjustifiable”, is set to hold a new government emergency meeting later on Friday, French TV channel BFM TV reported.

The detained police officer’s lawyer told BFM TV his client was sorry and “devastated”. The officer did what he thought was necessary in the moment, attorney Laurent-Franck Lienard told the news outlet.

“He doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people,” Lienard said of the officer. “He really didn’t want to kill. But now he must defend himself, as he’s the one who’s detained and sleeping in prison.”

The officer was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude “the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.”

Riot police face off demonstrantors on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, Thursday, June 29, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel, triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)
Riot police face off demonstrators on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy (Photo: Aurelien Morissard/AP)

The government has called for calm, and vowed that order will be restored but a third night of rioting took place on Thursday following a peaceful afternoon march in honour of the teen.

A total of 667 people were arrested overnight in France, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. Protesters in some cities set fires and lit fireworks in the streets as the night progressed.

In the usually tranquil Pyrenees town of Pau in southwestern France, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a new police office, the national police said.

Vehicles were set on fire in Toulouse and a tramway train was torched in a suburb of Lyon, police said.

In Paris, police said its officers made 40 arrests on Thursday, some on the margins of the largely peaceful memorial march for the teen and others elsewhere in the capital.

Mr Darmanin said the number of officers in the streets would reach 40,000, with 5,000 deployed in the Paris region alone.

“The professionals of disorder must go home,” Darmanin said. While there’s no need yet to declare a state of emergency — a measure taken to quell weeks of rioting in 2005 — he added: “The state’s response will be extremely firm.”

Bus and tram services in the Paris area shut down before sunset as a precaution to safeguard transportation workers and passengers from the violence.

In at least three towns around Paris, including Compiègne and Neuilly-sur-Marne, full or partial curfews were imposed.

The town of Clamart, home to 54,000 people in the French capital’s southwest suburbs, announced the extraordinary step of imposing an overnight curfew from Thursday through Monday, citing “the risk of new public order disturbances.”

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