Statistics released Monday show both violent crime and racism are on the rise in France compared to last year.
On Monday, drivers along a highway near Marseilles witnessed a crime that seemed to come from the script of a blockbuster action film. Four men dressed like commandos opened fire with automatic weapons on an armored truck which contained tens of thousands of euros in cash.
The truck caught fire, and the attackers attempted to gather bills scattered on the road before shooting at police and innocent bystanders and making their escape.
Somehow, no-one was killed, but both witnesses and police were shocked at the complete lack of restraint shown by the armed robbers.
A few years ago, violent robberies of this nature were rare. However, jewellers and post offices are being regularly attacked with explosives, firearms, or stolen vehicles used as battering rams. What is even more alarming is that many of these extreme acts of violence are carried out against people on the street with little or no motive.
According to figures published on Monday, France recorded a six percent increase in such violent crime in 2009.
"We've seen an explosion in violence for even the tiniest of motives," said Benoit Ebel of the Synergie police officers union. "Some individuals, if you don't give them a cigarette when they ask you for one, will just stab you. It's quite destabilizing, even for police officers like us."
One such incident took place just this past Sunday in a crowded Paris street market. A man stole fruit from a stall and was chased by a vendor. The man then drew a gun and according to an eye-witness, shot the vendor in the leg.
Rise in racist attacks
Another grim statistic published Monday was the amount of racist crime in France. A government agency counted 1026 acts of racist violence or threats of racist violence in 2009, most of which were directed against North Africans. This was up from 467 in 2008.
Six mosques were attacked, which was two more than in 2008.
According to statistics, anti-Semitic violence had also risen from 459 reported acts or threats of violence to 815. Thirty attacks were also made against French synagogues in 2009.
Author: John Laurenson (mk)
Editor: Rob Turner
Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx has been voted to head the German Bishops Conference. He is one of the most influential figures in the German Catholic Church.
Cottbus lies in the middle of brown coal country. That means open-cast mining and power stations, something for fans of industrial heritage. But the city is also a small gem for architecture-lovers.
Many German families leave their old and invalid relatives to be looked after by female careworkers from Eastern Europe. These women work at all hours of the day and night - and also on the margins of the law.
What is identity, and who has the right to define us? English Theatre Berlin poses these questions in the production, "Schwarz gemacht," an exploration into the Afro-German experience in 1938 Berlin.