VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France, Nov 26 (Reuters) French police fired tear gas today evening during running battles with rioters in a suburb north of Paris where two youths died after a crash involving a police car.
During a second night of disturbances some 100 riot police came under attack in Villiers-le-Bel from large fire crackers.
They replied with tear gas, rubber bullets and paint guns designed to identify troublemakers, a Reuters witness said.
A car, a garbage truck and a police vehicle were set on fire.
The violence revived memories of the 2005 riots in France's poor, often ethnically diverse, housing estates when thousands of cars were torched after two teenagers were electrocuted after apparently fleeing police.
Extra police had been drafted into the suburb on Monday in case of a repeat of yesterday's disturbances when 28 cars and five buildings were torched, including a police station.
Twenty-six police and fire officers were hurt. Nine people were arrested yestrday.
Police have launched an investigation into the accident at the weekend involving a police car and a motorcycle, driven by two youths aged 15 and 16. Police say the motorcycle was stolen and the youths ignored traffic regulations.
The investigation will focus on whether the two officers helped the dying youths. Relatives and locals complained the police fled the scene after the incident.
President Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister in 2005 and he took a tough line with the rioters which critics said helped stoke the violence.
Today, the head of state called for calm.
''I call on everyone to calm down and let the justice system decide who was responsible,'' Sarkozy told reporters during an official visit to Beijing.
POLICE PROBE Local public prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry told LCI television the crash investigator's preliminary findings showed the youngsters had turned into the path of the police vehicle.
''The mini-moto was in third gear, which means it was going at top speed,'' she said. ''That's what the expert report says, which confirms the statement by the driver of the police vehicle as well as that of two witnesses.'' The officers had immediately called the emergency services.
Tapes of the calls and subsequent radio traffic were being studied to see if police followed the correct procedures, she said.
Local inhabitants of the Villiers-le-Bel estate contested that version of events.
''That they say it was an accident, when they ran away, -- ran away, I say -- that's unacceptable for those who represent the law,'' Slimane Erraji, uncle of one of the dead, told LCI.
Calbo, a local resident, told reporters the youths were struck from behind. ''They saw they were in pain, they didn't help.
''The police tried to drive off by starting their car. They couldn't start their car because it was damaged, so they ran away.'' The local mayor Didier Vaillant also called for calm. ''I'm appealing to all inhabitants, and notably young people, so that we can get back to calm in our town,'' he told i-Tele television.
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