French riot police deployed to Mayotte as gang violence spirals out of control

AFP - GREGOIRE MEROT

France has sent a team of special riot police to the the Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte to stem a wave of violence between rival gangs. One person has been killed and several injured during 10 days of clashes.

"For 15 years, Mayotte, the island of perfumes, has become the island of hell," mayor of the cpital Mamoudzou, Ambdilwahédou Soumaila, told AFP on Tuesday.

Faced with an unprecedented escalation of gang violence, France's Interior Ministry dispatched a dozen police officers from Raid, the elite police intervention unit, who were due to arrive on Tuesday to support local security forces.

The move comes after the death of a 20-year-old man in the Kawéni district who was killed with a machete on 12 November.

Kawéni has the largest concentration of businesses and schools as well as the largest slum in the department.

On Saturday, 200 to 250 young people from the Kawéni district gathered to fight rivals from the Doujani district, further south, according to police.

On Sunday, a motorist was stabbed in Mtsapéré Bonovo, another district of Mamoudzou.

In 10 days of inter-district conflicts, school buses and buildings were set on fire and several people were wounded.

'Zone of lawlessness'

MP for Mayotte Estelle Youssouffa accused authorities in Paris of ignoring the island's calls for help. She referred to "barbarism and terror" as a result of a "cycle of vengeance" among youth.

"We are talking about hordes of hundreds of young people, most of them Comorians in an irregular situation, who are between 12 and 13 years old, armed with machetes, looking to kill," she said.

"We are in a zone of lawlessness and we are really going to fall into anarchy."


Read more on RFI English

Read also:
France mulls military-run correctional venues for child offenders in Mayotte
MPs warn of impending social chaos in French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte
French teenage gang violence: tragic reality or dangerous media invention?