Youths riot in Paris station

Nine people were arrested after officers and police dogs charged at groups of marauding youths, some of them wearing hoods, who mingled with commuters and travellers at the Gare du Nord – one of Paris' most important transport hubs.

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Youths threw rubbish cans and other objects at officers and set fire to an information booth inside the station.

Transport officials said the violence started with an altercation during a ticket check, but youths disputed that account.

One woman was evacuated by paramedics for tear gas intoxication.

Groups of dazed tourists and commuters negotiated overturned garbage cans and downed potted plants, dragging their bags over the glass-strewn floors.

Youths broke windows of a sports-goods store, reaching through the shattered glass to grab boxes of shoes. Passers-by also joined in the looting.

Into the late evening, groups of officers were still periodically charging youths who took flight in stairwells and other parts of the station. Paris police said officers made nine arrests.

The violence did not appear directly related to France's presidential election in under four weeks, but highlighted the social and economic tensions that the country's new leader will inherit when he or she takes power in May.

Lines from Gare du Nord serve the same suburbs north of Paris where rioting erupted in 2005. That violence was born of pent-up anger – especially among youths of immigrant origin – over years of high unemployment and racial inequalities. Those issues have both figured in the presidential campaign.

A Paris city hall official said about 100 people were involved in the violence late Tuesday evening. Hundreds of others milled around the station, watching the pandemonium.

Some youths swung metal bars. They attacked automatic drink dispensers, smashed windows and lights. Some rubbish cans were set on fire.

The clashes forced the closure of subway and commuter lines at the station for several hours. Its long-distance rail hub and terminal for Eurostar trains that go to Britain remained open.

The melee started after a man without a Metro ticket punched two inspectors during a routine ticket check, according to officials from Paris' RATP public transport authority. Youths attacked the inspectors and later turned on police officers patrolling the station, officials said.

"The inspectors were hit with projectiles, as were the officers who came to assist them," said Luc Poignant, an official for the Force Ouvriere police union.

Police said the ticket-less man was in custody.

But youths at the station said the incident started when police manhandled a youth of North African origin. Some claimed that the youth's arm was broken in the confrontation.

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