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Nine police injured in rioting in French Guiana’s capital

April 25, 1997

CAYENNE, French Guiana (AP) _ Protesters demanding the release of anti-government activists fired shots and threw Molotov cocktails at police, wounding at least nine officers, authorities said Thursday.

No demonstrators were hurt, and officers were under orders not to retaliate during the protests, which began late Wednesday outside police headquarters.

On Thursday, more than 300 people blocked traffic in Cayenne, capital of French Guiana, a French overseas department in South America. They demanded the release of nine people who were arrested in connection with a November attack on a government prosecutor’s home.

Authorities denied a report by the British Broadcasting Corp. that police officers were killed in the violence. But they said at least nine officers were wounded by protesters who fired shots and tossed Molotov cocktails from behind barricades.

Witnesses said the violence began when police fired tear gas to break up a demonstration. Sporadic clashes between protesters and police continued throughout the night, but calm returned by daybreak Thursday.

Protesters demanded the release of nine people arrested in connection with a November attack on the home of chief prosecutor Jean-Luc Beck. Demonstrators demanding improved school conditions tried to set fire to the home.

Those arrested include Alain Michel, spokesman for the Guyanese National Popular Party, which advocates independence from France. Three labor leaders _ two of whom belong to another independence party _ also were arrested.

All nine were flown to the French Caribbean island of Martinique.

Labor unions accused police of trying to get the detained to confess to plotting to overthrow the government.

Police fired tear gas against protesters in Cayenne last week, and France this week reinforced security by flying in 150 police officers.

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