Hundreds arrested in New Caledonia amid state of emergency

Armed forces were protecting New Caledonia's two airports and port after a third night of violent riots that have killed five people, the Pacific Island's top French official said on Thursday morning, adding at least four alleged instigators were under house arrest.

A gendarme was killed on Thursday in France's riot-struck Pacific territory of New Caledonia by an "accidental gunshot", Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told AFP. "It was not a hostile shot" that killed the officer, added a source informed about the incident, which brings to five the number of deaths in unrest since Monday, including two gendarmes.

The unrest flared after lawmakers in Paris approved a bill extending voting rights in New Caledonia’s provincial elections to residents arriving from mainland France – a change critics fear could marginalise Indigenous people and benefit pro-France politicians.

The National Assembly (lower house) adopted the reform shortly after midnight early on Wednesday.

Locals fear that expanding voter lists would benefit pro-France politicians and reduce the weight of the Kanaks.

Police reinforcements adding 500 officers to the 1,800 usually present on the island, have been sent after rioters torched vehicles and businesses and looted stores.


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