Five people have been injured in riots in Corsica, which ensued after “bathers of North African origin” allegedly attacked a tourist taking a photo of a Muslim woman in a Burkini, or full-body swimsuit, on a public beach.
The clashes, in Sisco, on the north of the Mediterranean Island, a province of France, spanned two day, involved weapons and saw at least three cars burnt.
The initial confrontation was between the North African migrants and young locals who intervened to help the tourists. A discussion escalated into violence as more Muslim migrants and Corsican locals arrived.
The next day, some 500 people rallied in the island’s capital, Bastia, France 3 Corsica reports.
According to one account given at the rally, the “Maghrebs” (North African Muslims) shouted insults on the beach before several older North African men arrived, carrying hatchets, and attacked a group of young Corsicans aged 15 to 18 on the beach.
Two of those injured were Corsicans and three were North African. One of the Corsicans was allegedly hit the ribs by harpoon.
The French Interior Ministry confirmed that the incident had taken place, but would not specify the nationality of the people involved, simply calling them “foreigners.”
“Four people injured, including a pregnant woman, were evacuated to the hospital in Bastia,” the ministry said in a statement, adding, “three vehicles were burned, causing severe traffic disruption.”
The cars were reportedly the property of local Muslim families, whose homes were attacked with bottles and stones as news of the attacks spread.
The ministry said that some 100 police officers had been dispatched to the scene to bring the situation under control.
Corsica Libera, a nationalist, left-wing separatist political party, said in a statement on Facebook that they gave “full support to the people of Siscu, who responded in the face of aggression suffered by young Corsicans this Saturday.”
“The people of Corsica will never accept certain behaviour, contrary to all its cultural values” they added, slamming “gangs of preachers of hatred” and “some media Parisians who distort reality.”
— Onlinemagazin (@OnlineMagazin) August 14, 2016
Rinnovu Naziunali, another nationalistic party, said in a Facebook statement, that, “religious diktats have no place on our beaches and our home”, whilst praising the “secularism of the French Republic”.
They slammed “communitarianism and restrictions to our individual freedoms” and the “ideologies of the extreme right, and historical enemies of the people of Corsica.”
“The Corsica people must regain our sovereignty to preserve our culture and live together,” they added.
At the end of last year, the Island witnessed a series of anti-Muslim demonstrations, triggered by attacks on police and Firemen in a primarily Muslim neighbourhood. A Muslim prayer hall was also ransacked.
Last month, a militant Corsican separatist group said they would respond “without hesitation” to any Islamist attacks in Corsica after the Islamic State truck attack in nearby Nice, Southern France, milled 85 innocent people.
The mayor of Cannes, in Southern France, last week banned the wearing of burkinis on the beaches of the French Riviera sighting concerns about terrorism and sectarianism.