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Armed French police deploy in Dijon to quell ethnic gang violence

Armed police were deployed in part of Dijon, eastern France, after violence erupted between rival gangs for a fourth night running.

Cars were torched and wheelie bins set alight late on Monday before several dozen police managed to restore order, authorities said.

The unrest stemmed from “a settling of scores” between ethnic Chechens and local residents of Gresilles, a low-income district with a heavy North African immigrant population, said local prefect Bernard Schmeltz.

Regional radio news station France Bleu quoted Dijon prosecutor Eric Mathias as saying he had opened an investigation into attempted murder by an organised group and incitement to violence.

Mathias said Chechens had allegedly used social media to issue a France-wide call for vengeance over an attack on a member of their community by people from the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa.

Videos, whose provenance Reuters could not immediately authenticate, circulated at the weekend showing dozens of hooded Chechen men, some wearing balaclavas and brandishing handguns or knives, out in the streets of the Dijon suburb.

“We’re no longer in a (functioning) Republic when that is how things play out,” Dijon mayor Francois Rebsamen told BFM TV, denouncing a lack of police resources.

After being outnumbered for a few days, and being chased around and beaten by Chechens, the Arab gangs brought in assault rifles and are now posting videos and photos on Twitter, calling for the Chechens to leave town.

Initially, the Chechens were dominating the streets, but with reinforcements of people and weapons, the Arab gangs have now grown confident and are running around destroying security cameras and appear to be on the hunt for the Chechen gangs.

37 anti-riot police were deployed to the city in Eastern France on June 14th and an additional 110 were sent in on June 15th.

How the anti-riot police will cope against groups of people with assault rifles is yet to be seen.

Local prefect Bernard Schmeltz said in a statement that the violence “appeared to be part of a settling of scores between members of the Chechen community in France and residents” of Dijon.

The unrest was traced back to an attack on a 16-year-old member of the local Chechen diaspora community on June 10th. French media reported that he was attacked by local drug dealers. Police said that members of the ‘community’ then carried out raids in retaliation for the assault. Accoording to reports in social media, the real ‘issue’ behind the attack on the 16yo person was the drug dealing conflict. Chechen gangs in France are known for being involved in this kind of ‘business’

To prove the “effective work” of the anti-riot police, Dijon prosecutor Eric Mathais said six people have been injured over the three days of unrest, but that no arrests had been made.