A viral video has captured a mob shouting “Allahu akhbar” stopping a bus before torching it, in what was the latest in a series of attacks on public transport in France. Services in migrant suburbs of France have been beset for years by regular attacks, stonings, violence, and threats.
On the 27th of July a group of men blocked a road in Saint-Denis, forcing the oncoming bus to stop. The mob then torched the bus, apparently shouting “Allahu akhbar”. It took three water cannons for firefighters to quell the flames, and the bus route has now been re-routed.
Such incidents are not uncommon in the northern Paris suburb, where 36 per cent of residents were born overseas. The weekend before the “Allahu akhbar” torching, a bus driver and his passengers had to vacate the vehicle after people blocked it with a barricade of burning garbage. Windows of the bus were broken but no one was hurt.
Saint-Denis’ mayor Didier Paillard, of the Communist Party, said: “This act of premeditated vandalism, the consequences of which could have been tragic, follows an attempted homicide on a worker by a Molotov cocktail on July 22 and buildings being looted.”
The area has been the scene of numerous riots in the past, where in 2010 where gangs threw Molotov cocktails at one bus and torched several others. In 2005, huge riots in Saint-Denis saw 9,000 cars and dozens of public buildings and businesses set alight.
The following year violence erupted again after a teenager was arrested for attacking a bus driver, an act witnessed by the local mayor who gave evidence to police. Protesting the conservative mayor at least 150 youths, many with baseball bats, fought with riot police for more than four hours. The mob petrol-bombed buildings and smashed the windows of the town hall before gathering outside the mayor’s house, which they pelted with bricks.
In neighbouring Gennevilliers, bus drivers’ lives are made a hell with regular stonings, attacks, and threats.
One driver, speaking anonymously, told Le Parisien: “These actions of a few individuals heavily penalize the daily lives of residents whose buses are now diverted, and peace is threatened.
“It happens especially at night … Most often, it is stone throwing. But a few months ago, a driver also had to face bullets.”
He revealed: “When driving at such moments you think we try to do to do our work, but sometimes it is difficult.”
While temporary route changes in the wake of attacks on buses is not uncommon, some services have had t0 be terminated permanently.
Since late 2012, the 235 bus no longer passes through Gennevilliers’ Lute neighbourhood. In addition to repeated stone throwing, a bus driver was doused with petrol by “unknown persons” who then attempted to set fire to the vehicle with him inside.
The Kouachi brothers, who were the main perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo shooting, lived and were radicalised in Gennevilliers.