French Military Investigates Whether Off-Duty Troops Turned Vigilante During Riots

french military investigates whether off duty troops turned vigilante during riots
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Thousands of vehicles and buildings were destroyed across France in a week of rioting, but now the military is investigating whether a group of well-disciplined young men in balaclavas zip-tying suspected looters were actually their own people.

The French military has launched an internal investigation into whether a group of its troops donned civilian clothing and went into the town next to their base to unofficially assist local police in combating rioters, it is now claimed. The announcement of the investigation follows an initial denial by the maritime command that their troops were in any way involved last week, which was followed on Monday by an admission that while some may have done so, it was unofficial and the military had not been alerted in advance.

French newspaper Le Figaro reports it understands that if any facts in the case can be proven, it was conceivable that the troops involved in what was dubbed the “brigade anticasseur” (anti-thug brigade) could be punished.

The investigation surrounds events in the Brittany coastal town of Lorient, which is home to a large naval base with an Army Marine Commando contingent. While the presence of any ‘militia’ unofficially assisting police in their duties as they faced down rioters on Friday night was strongly denied at the time, several newspapers reported eyewitness accounts of and even published interviews with a group of young men said to be performing unofficial arrests on suspected looters.

These individuals were said to be young, muscular men dressed in hooded tops and with balaclavas and gloves who were observed to be fast-moving, well organised, and performing the arrests with obviously practiced skill. Those arrested were bound with zip ties and handed over to police.

Le Figaro notes French law which allows for citizens’ arrests in particular circumstances, being relevant in cases of suspected crimes which could merit a punishment of imprisonment, and requires the arresting citizen to bring the detained person to the nearest police officer. In all, the paper states the arrests appear to have been “forceful but legal”.

The region’s prosecutor’s office says it has received no complaints over the actions and it has not opened a criminal investigation over the alleged gang of vigilantes.

Last week, the French naval command responsible for the base denied any knowledge of their troops being involved, but on Monday clarified its position, saying: “elements of [this command] may have participated in this group in a personal capacity without the hierarchy having been informed in advance. No unit has been engaged either formally or informally”.

Despite the initial denial, several French media reports noted the proximity of the naval base and suspicions off-duty Marine Commandos or riflemen may have been involved. As reported earlier this week:

While police officers on the scene… say they don’t know who the group are, they are welcoming of the help.

One officer is reported to have said to Le Télégramme: “We let it happen at the start of the evening, because it relieved us”.

Local station J’aime Radio claims to have spoken to members of the group on patrol again two nights later, interviewing them anonymously. One who spoke to the station said at first a group of friends decided they wished to stand side-by-side with police but not get involved, but eventually having seen how overwhelmed the small number of officers were becoming compared to the weight of rioters, they felt obliged to get involved.

When asked by the interviewer if the group had any “far-right” connections, a woman replied that: “no, we are just people who want to save France, because France is going to ruin”. She further added that it was their belief the killing of an Algerian-heritage teen by a police officer last week is just being used as an excuse for rioting and looting by youths.

A man added “we are patriots who love France” and that if rioters only had trouble with the police, they could understand that, but the attacks on private businesses for looting underlined the true cause of the violence. He said it was unacceptable to see a small business owner, who may have invested his whole life of savings, and all his energy, see his hard work “go up in smoke” because of looters.

Rioting broke out in France last week after a teenager was shot dead by police trying to flee from officers in a French suburb. The French government was slow to respond to the spiraling violence and only slowed the rioting and looting which touched every corner of the nation after a belated major deployment of 45,000 extra police a night. Nearly 6,000 vehicles are thought to have been burnt, and at least 1,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Authored by Oliver Jj Lane via Breitbart July 6th 2023