PARIS, Oct 26 (Reuters) Masked vandals set ablaze two buses near Paris overnight in an upsurge of violence ahead of the first anniversary of France's suburban riots, police said today.
Passengers managed to escape from the buses in the western suburb of Nanterre and the eastern suburb of Bagnolet before the attackers torched the vehicles.
French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told iTELE television the vandals were guilty of ''attempted murder''.
The overnight incidents followed a daylight assault on a bus on Sunday. Youths on ethnically mixed estates around Paris have also staged several apparently concerted attacks on security forces in recent weeks.
Police say the violence has been building ahead of the October 27 anniversary of last year's riots in which angry youths from mainly immigrant backgrounds burned cars and trashed shops for three weeks in a protest blamed on poverty and discrimination.
Police union spokesman Dominique Planchon told iTELE television today that six unidentified individuals boarded the Nanterre bus and sprayed it with inflammable liquid.
''According to our information, the driver's dexterity and alertness enabled the evacuation of the 10 people (passengers) without there being any injuries,'' he said.
In the Bagnolet attack, one assailant held a pistol to the head of a bus driver while others forced passengers to get off before they set the bus on fire.
Reuters LL DS1404