France sends elite forces to Guadeloupe after night of looting

Militants set up a blockade of tyres at a roundabout in Guadeloupe, on Nov 17, 2021, as they protest mandatory coronavirus vaccinations. PHOTO: AFP

POINTE-A-PITRE (AFP) - France sent dozens of elite police and counter-terrorism officers to its Caribbean island of Guadeloupe on Saturday (Nov 20) following looting and arson overnight in defiance of an overnight curfew.

The island's prefect on Friday introduced the night-time stay-at-home order after protests against the coronavirus vaccine pass spiralled into violence the previous night.

But the measure did little to quell the rioting.

"The night was very turbulent," a police source said.

The security forces recorded "some 20 incidents of looting or attempted robbery" in the seaside towns of Pointe-a-Pitre and Le Gosier, including at a jewellery shop, a bank, a betting shop and a shopping centre.

In the town of Saint-Francois to the east, "gendarmes coming out of the station were threatened by blazing projectiles".

A second source within the gendarmerie said an armoury had been looted.

The first source said "firearms were used against police forces in four different areas" across the island, and one member was slightly wounded after a stone hit him in the face.

In the area of Le Petit-Bourg to the west, firemen had to put out fires in two mobile phone stores, which had also been plundered.

The interior ministry said 31 people had been arrested.

France late Saturday said it was sending around 50 personnel from both its Raid elite police force and its GIGN counter-terrorism unit to Guadeloupe.

The doctors' union in Guadeloupe warned against further trouble while the health system was so "fragile".

They criticised "individuals who may have prevented patients from getting access to treatment, or medical staff from reaching their place of practice".

While most people in mainland France have now received two vaccination doses, rates in its overseas territories have lagged behind.

By Nov 16, some 46 per cent of adults in Guadeloupe had received at least one jab of a vaccine against Covid-19.

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