PARIS — France will impose curfews under a state-of-emergency law and call up police reservists to stop rioting that has spread out of Paris' suburbs and into nearly 300 cities and towns across the country, the prime minister said Monday, calling a return to order "our No. 1 responsibility."
The tough new measures came as France's worst civil unrest in decades entered a 12th night, with rioters in the southern city of Toulouse setting fire to a bus after sundown and pelting police with gasoline bombs and rocks. Earlier, a 61-year-old retired auto worker died of wounds from an attack last week, the first death in the violence.
Asked on TF1 television whether the army should be brought in, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said, "we are not at that point."
But "at each step, we will take the necessary measures to re-establish order very quickly throughout France," he said. "That is our prime duty: ensuring everyone's protection."
The new measures followed the worst overnight violence so far, and foreign governments warned their citizens to be careful in France. Apparent copycat attacks took place outside France, with five cars torched outside the main train station in Brussels, Belgium. German police were investigating the burning of five cars in Berlin.
The violence started Oct. 27 among youths in a northeastern Paris suburb angry over the accidental deaths of two teenagers but has grown into a nationwide storm of burning and clashes with police. The mayhem is forcing France to confront anger building for decades in neglected suburbs and among the French-born children of Arab and black African immigrants.
The teenagers whose deaths sparked the rioting were of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent. They were electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation, apparently thinking they were being chased.
President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters would be caught and punished, acknowledged in a meeting Monday with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that France has not integrated immigrant youths, she said.
Chirac deplored the "ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin" and recognized "the incapacity of French society to fully accept them," said Vike-Freiberga.
France "has not done everything possible for these youths, supported them so they feel understood, heard and respected," Chirac added, noting that unemployment runs as high as 40 percent in some suburbs, four times the national rate, according to Vike-Freiberga.
Vandals burned more than 1,400 vehicles overnight into Monday, as well as churches, schools and businesses, and injured 36 police officers in clashes around the country, setting a new high for arson and violence, said France's national police chief, Michel Gaudin. Attacks were reported in 274 towns, and police made 395 arrests.
"This spread, with a sort of shock wave spreading across the country, shows up in the number of towns affected," Gaudin said.
In terms of material destruction, the unrest is France's worst since World War II — and never has rioting struck so many different French cities simultaneously, said security expert Sebastian Roche, a director of research at the state-funded National Center for Scientific Research.
The curfews being imposed to quell the rioting fall under a 1955 law that allows the declaring of a state of emergency. The law was passed to curb unrest in Algeria during the war that led to its independence from France.
Villepin said 1,500 reservists were being called up to reinforce the 8,000 police and gendarmes already deployed. The Cabinet will meet Tuesday to authorize curfews "wherever it is necessary," he said.
"The multiplying acts of destruction, the destruction of schools and sports centers, thousands of cars set on fire, all of this is unacceptable and inexcusable," he said. "To all in France who are watching me, who are disturbed by this, who are shocked, who want to see a return to normalcy, a return to security, the state's response — I say it tonight forcefully — will be firm and just."
Local government officials will be able to impose curfews "if they think it will be useful to permit a return to calm and ensure the protection of residents. That is our No. 1 responsibility," the prime minister said.
Nearly 600 people were in custody Monday night, and fast-track trials were being used to punish rioters.
The first fatality was identified as 61-year-old Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec. He was trying to extinguish a trash can fire Friday at his housing project in the northeastern Paris suburb of Stains when an attacker caught him by surprise and beat him into a coma, police said.
"They have to stop this stupidity. It's going nowhere," his widow, Nicole, told Associated Press Television News, of the rioting.
France's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organization, the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, issued a religious decree against the violence. It prohibited all those "who seek divine grace from taking part in any action that blindly strikes private or public property or can harm others."
Youths firing fine-grain birdshot injured 10 police in a clash Sunday in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. Two were hospitalized, but their lives were not considered in danger. It was the first time police had been injured by weapons' fire.
Churches were set ablaze in northern Lens and southern Sete, Hamon said. In Colombes in suburban Paris, youths pelted a bus with rocks, sending a 13-month-old child to the hospital with a head injury, he said.
Associated Press Writers John Leicester, Angela Doland and D'Arcy Doran contributed to this report in Paris.