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More arrests in riots over black man's alleged rape by cops

PARIS -- French police are reporting another 26 arrests overnight in further unrest in suburban Paris towns rocked by arson attacks and other violence following the alleged rape of a young black man by police.

The violence in the Saint-Seine-Denis region, a working class region northeast of the French capital with a large minority population, erupted after a 22-year-old man was allegedly sodomized with a police officer’s baton during an identity check last week.

One officer was charged Sunday with aggravated rape and three others were charged with aggravated assault. The officers deny the allegations.

President Francois Hollande visited the victim, identified only as Theo, in the hospital 

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French President Francois Hollande visits a youth worker identified only as Theo, in a Paris hospital on Feb. 7, 2017. Theo required major surgery after his arrest, when he claims a police officer sodomized him with his baton. Getty

Authorities are wary of unrest in France’s poor towns, remembering the fiery 2005 riots that spread through France -- beginning in the Saint-Denis town of Clichy-Sous-Bois, and hopscotching through social housing around the country.

Tension between the police and youths in Paris’ impoverished suburbs has reached the boiling point several times even since the tumult of 2005.

Many of the young men implicated in the terrorist attacks in France and Belgium during the last three years have come from or have links to the “banlieue.” The word, literally translated, means “suburb,” but it has come to be associated with the depressed, mostly immigrant neighborhoods on the outskirts of the French capital where unemployment is high and opportunity scarce.

Les Banlieues: Seeds of Terror

“If you look at the situation of people, you understand the path they have taken to become a terrorist or whatever you call it,” Julien Villain, an 18-year-old resident of the Saint-Denis banlieue, who has a French mother and Moroccan father, told CBS News correspondent Vladmir Duthiers in a CBSN documentary broadcast last year. “Exclusion makes the terrorist, in my opinion.”

If marginalization is an ingredient for radicalization, it’s one the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has been able to capitalize on, recruiting thousands of Westerners to join their ranks in Syria and Iraq. At least six of the Paris attackers were French nationals.  

The French government does not keep statistics based on race or religion, but surveys have found unemployment is as high as 30 percent in these immigrant neighborhoods.

Felix Marquardt, a convert to Islam whose efforts at reform have made him a target of extremists, said there is hardcore discrimination against Muslims -- especially men.

“Muslims in France are poorer on average than the rest of the population. Their kids go to schools that are not as high quality as the rest of the population. They live in neighborhoods that are not as nice as the rest of the population,” he said.

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