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Union activist shot dead in Guadeloupe, minister calls security meeting after night of violence

Article published on the 2009-02-18 Latest update 2009-02-19 09:54 TU

Police with protesters who have been arrested(Photo: Reuters)

Police with protesters who have been arrested
(Photo: Reuters)

A man is reported to have died from gunshot wounds on Guadeloupe, after riots and looting gripped several areas of the French West Indies island overnight. In Paris, Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie has called an emergency meeting on security for Wednesday afternoon. At least three police officers are reported to have been wounded by gunfire.

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The dead man is reported to be a trade unionist in his 50s. Officials  say that he had just attended a union rally connected to the month-long general strike on the island and was hit when youths opened fire at police.

Three police officers were wounded when they accompanied rescue workers sent to help the man, according to the police crisis unit on the island. The other person in the vehicle was taken for questioning by police.

Violence erupted on Tuesday in Guadeloupe, with barricades erected, shops ransacked and shots fired.

The mayor of the main town, Point-à-Pitre, told the AFP news agency that exchanges of gunfire were heard in the area. About 100 youths rampaged through shopping areas of Baie-Mahault, according to its mayor Ary Chalus, who described the scene as "chaos."

"We have 15-year-old children who are clashing with police," he said. "We may well have families in mourning."

Outbreaks of fighting and arrests are reported to have continued through the night, with a shopping centre ransacked and a car tyre dealership left in ruins.

Barricades of burning cars, tree trunks and other objects were thrown up on Tuesday.

The leader of the committee leading the strike, Elie Domota, appealed for calm, but later accused French authorities of treating the island like a colony.

"Guadeloupe is a colony because they would never have allowed the situation to fester for so long in a French department before taking action," Domata told RTL radio.

The government has appealed for calm and President Nicolas Sarkozy is to meet elected representatives from Guadeloupe and other overseas departments on Thursday.

The strike has spread to another French West Indies island, Martinique.