Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Youth gang turns French train into terror ride!

France: The story is amazing because the police response was ridiculously inept. The fact this is only coming out now does seem to show a weak cover-up by authorities involved.

Hundreds of passengers were terrorised by a mob of youths rampaging through a train on the French Riviera. One young woman was sexually assaulted, travellers were robbed of phones and cash, and carriages were wrecked in the two-hour assault, it emerged yesterday. Up to 40 youths involved in the attacks had taken advantage of a special fare of about 80p to travel from Marseilles and Avignon to celebrate the New Year in Nice. They were part of a larger group of 100, many drunk from their overnight festivities and escorted by police to Nice station for their return journey at dawn on Sunday. A small police team accompanied the Lyons-bound train at first. But trouble broke out soon after their departure. Eventually the driver stopped the train at Les Arc-sur-Argens to appeal for extra police assistance. Only three officers turned up and violence continued as they awaited reinforcements before boarding the train. The line was blocked for an hour and a half as police gained control of the train. Passengers spoke of being warned they would be killed if they refused to hand over belongings or told police what had happened. They said they were too frightened to intervene and several refused to lodge complaints of theft or assault. "It was a real scene of pillage on the train," the regional prosecutor, Dominique Luiggi, said yesterday as details emerged. "Passengers were in a state of panic." One witness said there had already been assaults and threats, including other indecent attacks on young women, on Saturday's outward journey. He said the robbers were of Arab origin and had boasted about their plans to cause more trouble on the train. President Jacques Chirac promised yesterday to bring the gang to justice. He said those responsible would be "found and punished". France's Le Parisien newspaper likened the youths to the gang in the film Clockwork Orange.
More from IHT.
"....The youths broke windows, snatched mobile telephones, slashed seats and assaulted a young woman, according to the police. Ultimately, train officials called for help and stopped service, but police officers delayed boarding the train for more than an hour to wait for reinforcements, officials said. "It was a real scene of pillage," the regional state prosecutor, Dominique Luiggi, told reporters Monday, saying passengers were in a state of panic. When the train resumed service, with police officers on board, the youths pulled an emergency stop to escape by running along the tracks. Ultimately three people were arrested for robbery with one facing additional charges of sexual assault. The train incident came as France was still recovering from three weeks of rioting that ignited in impoverished suburbs in late October and early November. But many of the youths in the group came from Marseille, an area that was largely untouched by the rioting. The Socialist Party issued a statement declaring that the incident revealed more about "a worrying lack of security" and also questioned why the police were slow to respond and why so few arrests were made."

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