Death toll rises to six in New Caledonia riots as unrest spreads | Politics News


Hundreds of heavily armed marines and police patrol the capital of the French territory, Noumea, after a night of violence.

One more person died in the French Pacific Island territory of New Caledonia as security personnel attempted to restore order, bringing the death toll to six after nearly a week of rioting and looting.

French security forces reported the sixth death on Saturday following armed clashes over France's plan to impose new voting rules that could give tens of thousands of non-Indigenous residents the right to vote.

The territory is “on a destructive path,” local minister Vaimu'a Muliava warned on Saturday, telling those involved that “they are only punishing themselves.”

The person was killed in an exchange of gunfire at a barricade in Kaala-Gomen, in the north of the main island, a security official said, while two people were seriously wounded.

Le Monde and other French media outlets said the person killed was a man and that his son was among the wounded.

Two police officers were among those killed earlier this week in unrest that prompted the Paris government to impose a state of emergency on the archipelago and send reinforcements to the security services. Three other people, all of them Kanak indigenous people, have also been murdered.

Anger among the indigenous Kanak people has been simmering for weeks over plans to amend the French constitution to allow people who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in the territory's provincial elections, watering down a 1998 agreement that limited voting rights.

Hundreds of heavily armed French police and sailors patrolled the capital, Noumea, on Saturday, where the streets were littered with rubble.

Vehicles and buildings were burned in the city's Magenta district, the AFP news agency reported, while residents reported hearing gunshots, helicopter whirs and “massive explosions” overnight.

The violence has left some 3,200 tourists and other travelers stranded inside or outside the archipelago due to the closure of Noumea international airport.

French officials have accused an independence group known as CCAT of being behind the protests. According to authorities, ten activists accused of organizing the violence have been placed under house arrest.

The CCAT called on Friday for “a time of calm to break the spiral of violence.”

New Caledonia has been a French territory since its colonization in the late 19th century. Centuries later, politics remains dominated by debate over whether the islands should be part of France, autonomous or independent, with opinions divided roughly along ethnic lines.

France has also accused the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan of interference in the territory. Azerbaijan, which has traditionally had little presence in the Asia Pacific and is nearly 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) from New Caledonia, has denied the allegations.

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