Home International France mobilises police to regain control of New Caledonia airport road

France mobilises police to regain control of New Caledonia airport road

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French police trying to restore order in the island territory of New Caledonia after days of deadly unrest have cleared dozens of barricades that had been blocking the main road linking the airport to the capital, Noumea, a French official said on Sunday.

A car is seen on fire amid protests against plans to allow more people to take part in local elections in the French-ruled territory, which indigenous Kanak protesters reject, in Noumea, New Caledonia, May 18, 2024. Picture: Screengrab from video obtained by Reuters

PARIS – French police trying to restore order in the island territory of New Caledonia after days of deadly unrest have cleared dozens of barricades that had been blocking the main road linking the airport to the capital, Noumea, a French official said on Sunday.

Around 60 barricades that protesters had put up along the 60km (37-mile) road have been dismantled but the road is not yet open as debris needs to be cleared, which will take several days, the territory’s high commissioner, Louis Le Franc, told reporters.

The two main airlines serving New Caledonia have paused flights because of the unrest on the French-ruled South Pacific territory.

Protests erupted last week, sparked by anger among indigenous Kanak people over a constitutional amendment that will change who is allowed to participate in elections, which local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Six people have been killed and the unrest has left a trail of burnt businesses, torched cars, looted shops, and road barricades, cutting off access to medicine and food.

Three of those killed were indigenous Kanak and two were police officers. A sixth person was killed and two seriously injured on Saturday during a gun battle between two groups at a roadblock in Kaala-Gomen, French police said, without identifying the groups.

More than 600 police were mobilised to clear the barricades on the airport road, including some 100 gendarmes who are part of a special, heavily-armed unit, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on X late on Saturday.

“With the forces that I have at my disposition we will be able to re-establish Republican order,” said Le Franc, the high commissioner.

He said in a statement the situation was calmer on Saturday night compared to previous nights, but added that there had been two fires and looting, and that 230 rioters had been arrested.

The constitutional change, which was approved by lawmakers in Paris, would allow French people who have lived in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in provincial elections.

– REUTERS

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