Demonstrators ransacked a Muslim prayer hall and attempted to burn copies of the Koran on the French island of Corsica on Friday, police said, following a night of violence that left two firefighters injured.
Tensions had mounted in Ajaccio on Christmas Day after two firefighters and a police officer were wounded overnight in Jardins de L’Empereur, 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 police headquarters in the island’s capital in a show of support for the police and firefighters, officials said in a statement.
But some in that crowd broke away to join as many as 600 who headed for the housing estate where the violence took place the night before.
They shouted slogans in Corsican meaning “Arabs get out!” or “This is our home!”, an eyewitness said.
Nearby was a Muslim prayer room and a small group smashed the glass door and entered the place of worship, ransacking it and partially burning books including copies of the Koran, said regional official Francois Lalanne.
“Fifty prayer books were thrown out on the street,” Lalanne said, adding that some of the pages were burnt.
Corsica is a department of France which held regional elections earlier this month, which had seen the far-right anti-immigrant Front National make unprecedented gains in the first round of the vote.
On Corsica the nationalists won the regional election there taking power for the first time.