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Violence continues in New Caledonia despite France imposing state of emergency

The move boosted security forces’ powers to quell deadly unrest in the archipelago where some residents have long sought to break free from France.

French authorities in New Caledonia and the interior ministry in Paris reported four people, including a police officer, have been killed in the violence after protests earlier this week over voting reforms pushed by President Emmanuel Macron’s government turned deadly.

At least 60 members of the security forces were injured and 214 people were arrested in Thursday’s clashes with police, which saw arson and looting, according to the territory’s High Commissioner Louis Le Franc.

New Caledonia Unrest
A French military plane arrives at Noumea-Magenta airport (Cedric Jacquot/AP)

Two members of the island’s indigenous Kanak community were among the four dead, French Interior and Overseas Territories Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

“The (French) state will regain total control,” Mr Darmanin declared in a series of interviews with French media.

The state of emergency will be in place for at least 12 days, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

French military forces were being deployed to protect ports and airports and to beef up security forces’ efforts to curb violence. The curfew has been extended until Friday morning, Mr Le Franc said.

The emergency powers enable French and local authorities on the archipelago to tackle unrest, mainly by authorising the house arrest of people deemed a threat to public order and expanding powers to conduct searches, seize weapons and restrict movements, with possible jail time for violators.

New Caledonia Unrest
French police patrol the streets in Noumea (Cedric Jacquot/AP)

The last time France imposed such measures on one of its overseas territories was in 1985, also in New Caledonia.

The Pacific island east of Australia, home to about 270,000 people, is known to tourists for its Unesco World Heritage atolls and reefs.

But tensions have simmered for decades between the indigenous Kanaks seeking independence and colonisers’ descendants who want it to remain part of France.

People of European descent in New Caledonia, which served as France’s prison colony, distinguish between descendants of colonisers and descendants of the many prisoners sent to the territory by force.

New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III, Napoleon’s nephew and heir. It became an overseas territory after the Second World War, with French citizenship granted to all Kanaks in 1957. The island now hosts a French military base.



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