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Man shot dead by police in riot-hit New Caledonia

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PARIS (Reuters) -Police shot dead a man in riot-hit New Caledonia on Friday evening, a day after President Emmanuel Macron visited to the French-ruled Pacific island to try to calm tensions, local media said, citing the local prosecutor’s office.

The police officer used his gun as he and a colleague were attacked by a group of around 15 people before the shot was fired, NC La 1ere broadcaster quoted the prosecutor as saying. An investigation was ongoing.

The prosecutor’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The death of the 48-year-old man, which other local media also reported, brought to seven the number killed in 12 days of upheaval triggered by a contested electoral reform and fuelled by sharp economic disparities between the indigenous Kanak population and people of European background.

Macron, on a one-day visit on Thursday, hit the pause button on the reform, which would allow thousands more French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote, diluting the vote of Kanaks, who comprise 41% of the population.

He stopped short of following demands by those seeking independence that it be withdrawn altogether but said he wanted to use the following weeks to try and reach an overall political deal on the island’s future.

The French government has sent in thousands of extra police forces over the past days to help restore calm. Earlier in the day authorities had said the situation was “relatively calm.”

Police removed around 100 roadblocks across New Caledonia on Friday.

The island territory is marked by deep economic disparities, according to census data. The poverty rate among indigenous Kanaks, the largest community, is 32.5%, compared to 9% among non-Kanaks, according to the 2019 census.

France colonised New Caledonia in 1853 and made the colony an overseas territory in 1946, granting rights to Kanaks.

Christian Tein of the Field Action Coordination Cell (CCAT) which has organised the protests, said they would keep pushing for a withdrawal of the electoral reform, as well as, eventually, independence for the territory.

“We remain mobilised, we maintain the resistance in our neighbourhoods, in a structured, organised way,” he said in comments broadcast on Facebook (NASDAQ:).

He added that independence supporters had often been disappointed by the government in Paris and hoped Macron would be true to his promise not to force the electoral reform through.



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