The violence in France's poor suburban communities persisted in the south Sunday, with attackers ramming burning cars into a retirement home and a school in one town. Nationwide, however, the unrest that has gone on for 18 nights continued to subside.
National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said there had been a "major lull" in the violence, despite scattered incidents of serious attacks.
The nation's worst violence in nearly four decades has declined slowly over the last week since its ferocious climax last weekend. Residents and police said the unrest had been curbed in many areas with a combination of parental and community pressure on the youths involved in the attacks, more aggressive arrests by police and the imposition of curfews.
But groups of boys and young men continue to strike at symbols of the government, including schools and police stations, as well as cars and private businesses. Most of the violence has been concentrated in poor communities with large populations of immigrants and their French-born children.
The violence, which has hit nearly every major city and town in France, has opened a nationwide debate over the inequities and discrimination in French society.
A poll published by Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper Sunday indicated that 71 percent of those surveyed do not believe President Jacques Chirac can resolve the social problems that fueled the riots. The survey also showed that 25 percent of the respondents support the policies of Jean-Marie Le Pen, a politician who has capitalized on the violence to promote his National Front party's "zero immigration" platform.
Some of the worst incidents over the weekend occurred in southern France. In Carpentras, a town of 28,000 people in the Provence region, young men rammed burning cars into a retirement center and a school in separate attacks Saturday night. Police said no one was injured. On Friday night, a man on a motorcycle hurled two molotov cocktails at a mosque, slightly damaging the building.
In the southeastern city of Lyon, France's third-largest urban area, traces of gasoline were discovered Sunday on the exterior of the Grand Mosque, but no fire was reported, police said. About 50 young men and boys rampaged through the city's main square Saturday night, attacking street vendors' stalls, small shops and cars.
Arsonists torched an electronics store Saturday night in Blangnac, a community on the outskirts of the southern city of Toulouse that has been the scene of much unrest in recent nights.
In Paris, 3,000 police officers were deployed around major tourist sites and government buildings after Internet and cell-phone text messages threatened violence in the central parts of the city. Only one incident was reported by police -- a fire at a gasoline station.
More incidents of violence were reported in France's neighbor, Belgium. Police arrested about 50 people Saturday night after groups of youths confronted officers in downtown Brussels. Police reported that 29 buses, cars and trucks were burned across the country.
In the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, youths set four cars on fire Saturday night, according to police.