Troops patrol French village of Saint-Aignan after riot

Torched cars and toppled street signs in Saint-Aignan, central France, 18 Jul 10 The normally sleepy village near Blois is in shock after unprecedented rioting

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Three hundred soldiers are patrolling a normally tranquil village in France's Loire Valley after dozens of armed travellers clashed with police.

The riot erupted on Sunday morning in Saint-Aignan after a gendarme had shot and killed a traveller who had driven through a checkpoint, officials said.

Travellers armed with hatchets and iron bars then attacked the village police station and hacked down trees.

They also toppled traffic lights and road signs and burned three cars.

"It was a settling of scores between the travellers and the gendarmerie," said the village mayor, Jean-Michel Billon.

He said the travellers also pillaged a bakery in the village. Just 3,400 people live in the village in a popular tourist region of central France.

Dangerous driver

Prosecutors quoted by the French TV channel TF1 said a traveller called Luigi had failed to stop at a police checkpoint on Friday night and had dragged a gendarme on the car bonnet for 500 metres (yards).

The gendarme escaped with only minor injuries. As the driver approached a second checkpoint he accelerated towards two gendarmes, one of whom opened fire.

Saint-Aignan map

The car continued on to Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, where the driver's body was later recovered, the prosecutors said.

Luigi had picked up another traveller after the first checkpoint, the TF1 report said. It is not yet clear why Luigi had tried to flee the gendarmes.

In separate rioting at the weekend, youths clashed with police in the Alpine city of Grenoble.

Four men were arrested in a dawn raid on Sunday after they allegedly fired at police during a riot early on Saturday in the suburb of Villeneuve.

The rioting was triggered by the death of 27-year-old Karim Boudouda, who was shot by police on Thursday during a chase.

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