Date: 26/12/2015

Mosque ransacked and copies of Quran burned in Corsica
Prayer hall vandalised amid heightened security as tensions rise in French island that recently voted in far-right.

26 Dec 2015 06:03 GMT
A crowd vandalised a Muslim prayer hall and set fire to copies of the Quran on the French island of Corsica, police said, in an attack condemned by the government.
The violence came on Friday amid heightened security measures for the Christmas holiday, and nationwide fears after the November 13 attacks in Paris killed 130 people.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls wrote on Twitter that the break-in in the city of Ajaccio was "an unacceptable desecration".

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Tensions had mounted in Ajaccio on Friday after two firefighters and a police officer were injured overnight in a low-income neighbourhood of the city when they were "ambushed" by "several hooded youths", authorities said.

On Friday afternoon around 150 people had gathered in front of the prefecture in a show of support for the police and firefighters, officials said in a statement.

But some in that crowd broke away and headed for the low-income housing estate where the violence took place the night before.

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They shouted slogans in Corsican meaning "Arabs get out!" and "This is our home!", an AFP correspondent reported.

Nearby, a small group smashed the glass door to the mosque, ransacked the prayer hall and partially burned books including copies of the Quran, said regional official Francois Lalanne.
"Fifty prayer books were thrown out on the street," Lalanne said, adding that some of the pages were burnt.

The French Council of the Muslim Faith denounced the violence and pointed to the timing of the attack on Friday "on a day of prayer for both Muslims and Christians".
This year Christmas falls just after the Muslim feast day commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the attack showed signs of "racism and xenophobia".
He also condemned the assault on law enforcement and safety officers in Corsica.
Corsica is a department of France which held regional elections earlier this month in which the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front made unprecedented gains in the first round of the vote.
On Corsica, nationalists won the regional election there, taking power for the first time.
Source: Agencies


Muslim prayer room vandalised in Corsica after attack on firefighters
Mosques and prayer rooms are being guarded as police reinforcements from mainland France are called into Corsican capital following violence

People take pictures outside the devastated prayer room in Ajaccio. Photograph: Pierre-Antoine Fournil/AFP/Getty Images

Associated Press
Saturday 26 December 2015 15.35 GMT Last modified on Saturday 26 December 2015 16.10 GMT
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A crowd vandalised a Muslim prayer room in Corsica a day after an ambush injured two firefighters responding to an emergency in a housing project, the state prefect on the French island has said.

Prefect Christophe Mirmand said police reinforcements from mainland France were being called into the Corsican capital of Ajaccio , and prayer rooms and mosques were being guarded.

Two separate investigations were opened, one into the attack on firefighters on Thursday and the other into the damage to the prayer room on Friday, he said on iTele TV station.

Tensions were high on the Mediterranean island. The violence began on Thursday night, when firefighters responding to an emergency call were ambushed in a housing project in the hills of Ajaccio. It was not clear what prompted that violence.

On Friday, a gathering of about 600 people that started as a show of support for the injured emergency officials led to more violence when several dozen people broke away and headed to the prayer room. There, they threw objects and tried to burn Qur’ans and prayer books, officials said. They also vandalised a kebab shop.

“All these events are linked,” Mirmand said. Video showed some in the group shouting: “This is our home”, before the prayer room was damaged.

France’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, called for respect for French law after “the intolerable aggression toward firefighters and unacceptable profanation of a Muslim place of prayer”.

France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, condemned those responsible for attacking firefighters. He also said the “intolerable exactions” against the place of worship carried the “odour of racism and xenophobia” and would not go unpunished.