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African Youth Killed After Dispute Over Far-Right Campaign Posters

February 22, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ Men putting up campaign posters for the extreme-right National Front opened fire on a group of immigrant youths, killing a 17-year-old from Africa, police said Wednesday.

It was the first serious political violence of France’s presidential campaign, and raised fears of possible rioting in the low-income, heavily immigrant Marseille neighborhood where the shooting occurred late Tuesday.

Three suspects were taken into custody Wednesday afternoon. Police said they were National Front members but declined to identify them for fear their families might be endangered.

National Front leader and presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, who advocates mass deportation of immigrants, urged French media to be wary of ``manipulations″ that might falsely besmirch his party.

The Front’s mayoral candidate in Marseille, Ronald Perdomo, expressed condolences to the youth’s family. He said party activists were under strict orders not to carry weapons.

Witnesses told police that the victim, Ibrahim Ali, and about nine friends also from the Comoros Islands were on their way back from a session of rap music when they confronted the men putting up National Front posters at a housing project in northern Marseille.

The suspects told police they fired in self-defense after being harassed by the youths. The youths said the shooting was unprovoked.

Investigators said bullets were fired from at least two weapons, a pistol and a rifle. After the shooting, the men who had been putting up the posters fled in two cars.

Ali had French citizenship, but was born in the Comoros Islands off the coast of southeast Africa. He was shot in the back, rushed to a hospital and died in the emergency ward.

Police said they feared a riot might erupt when angry residents of the housing project gathered in the streets after the shooting, but no major disturbances were reported.

Late Wednesday, about 500 people _ most of them from the Comoros _ held a rally in Ali’s honor near the shooting site. The Socialist and Communist parties, along with civil rights and anti-racist groups, sent representatives.

SOS-Racisme, a nationwide anti-racism group, said police should take tougher action to prevent far-right militants from carrying weapons.

Le Pen is one of more than a dozen candidates in the race to succeed President Francois Mitterrand in May. Recent polls show his support at about 11 percent.

Update hourly