BRUSSELS, Belgium — Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.
As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed banlieue estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.
It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armored cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones. The number of attacks has risen by a third in two years. Police representatives told the newspaper Le Figaro that the "taboo" of attacking officers on patrol has been broken.
The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the leading center-right candidate for the presidency, has sent heavily equipped units into areas with orders to regain control from drug smuggling gangs and other organized crime rings. Such aggressive raids were "disrupting the underground economy in the estates," one senior official told Le Figaro.
However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. The secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, Michel Thoomis, has written to Mr. Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armored cars in the most dangerous areas.
However, Gerard Demarcq, of the largest police unions, Alliance, dismissed talk of an "intifada" as representing the views of only a minority.
Mr. Demarcq said the increased attacks on officers were proof that the policy of "retaking territory" from criminal gangs was working.
Mayors in the worst affected suburbs, which saw weeks of riots and car-burning a year ago, have expressed fears of a vicious circle, as attacks by locals lead the police to harden their tactics, further increasing resentment.
As if to prove that point, angry reactions came in the western Paris suburb of Les Mureaux following dawn raids in search of youths who attacked a police unit on Sunday. The raids led to one arrest.