PARIS - Deadly shootings by homegrown Islamists have cast a light on France's "geographical, social and ethnic apartheid," Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Tuesday in one of the starkest indictments of French society by a government figure.
The Jan. 7-9 attacks on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris have plunged France into a soul- searching debate to assess how the three gunmen were radicalized and how to prevent a repeat of violence that claimed 17 victims.
"These last few days have underscored a lot of evil that is gnawing at our country and challenges we must be equal to," Valls said at a New Year's address to the media.
"We have to look at all the divisions, the tensions that have been going on for years ... the neglect of the suburbs, the ghettos, the social misery," he said. "A geographical, social and ethnic apartheid has established itself in our country."
Run-down neighborhoods ring many French cities, often populated by poor whites, blacks and people of North African descent who feel marginalized from mainstream society. Yet it is rare for a French leader, even from the ruling Socialists, to paint a picture of inequality in such strong terms.