The French government has sent police reinforcements and a senior official to the Dijon region to quell four nights of unusually violent clashes between rival groups that have left at least 10 injured and cars burned.
The reasons for the unrest are under investigation, but local officials say it appears linked to the drug trade and tensions between members of France’s Chechen community and other groups.
Similar clashes have erupted in the Mediterranean city of Nice in recent days, which the mayor attributed to tensions over drug territory between local Chechen residents and their rivals. Four people were reported injured there.
The unrest in Dijon’s Gresilles neighbourhood began last week after a teenager from the Chechen community was attacked by local drug dealers, according to broadcaster France Bleu.
Members of the Chechen community called on social networks for revenge, and fighting broke out on Friday.
After tensions continued through the weekend, the interior minister ordered police reinforcements to the area and announced on Monday that the government would take over management of the situation.
Images from BFM television showed two cars and several rubbish bins on fire and black smoke rising over a leafy neighbourhood of low-rise apartment buildings.
Young people wearing hoods and masks carried metal bars or bats as they roamed the area, and a makeshift petrol bomb in a plastic bottle lay on the pavement.
A police helicopter circled overhead, and a dozen police vans lined a nearby street as firefighters sought to douse the scattered blazes.
Local residents told BFM they felt abandoned by police as the violence raged over the weekend.
The local prefect, the senior government official for the area, insisted in a statement that “police guaranteed the respect of public order in a complex situation” as they tried to cool tempers and contain the violence.
After the government sent reinforcements, junior minister Laurent Nunez visited the area on Tuesday, and praised local police for their efforts.
The local administration said at least 10 people have been injured.
Graffiti on a nearby shopfront read “Long Live Putin”, in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose military fought Chechen militants in two wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.
France offered asylum to many Chechens at the time, and there are now Chechen communities scattered around France.