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French president convenes top ministers to discuss spiraling violence in territory of New Caledonia

PARIS (AP) — At least two people were killed and three were seriously injured overnight in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia, French officials there said Wednesday, as President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting of top ministers to discuss the spiraling violence.

It was the third day of violent unrest over a constitutional reform pushed by Paris that has roiled the archipelago, which has long sought independence.

Macron’s office said the president also canceled a trip he had been planning to northwest France on Wednesday while he focused on the crisis.

French authorities in the territory said more than 130 people have been arrested and over 300 have been injured since Monday in the violence that has raged across the archipelago, where there have been decades of tensions between indigenous Kanaks seeking independence and descendants of colonizers who want to remain part of France.

The special defense and security council meeting called by Macron typically brings together a limited group of officials, including Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and the ministers for defense, interior, economy and foreign affairs.

Minister of Interior and Overseas Territories Gérald Darmanin said a hundred gendarmes were evacuated during violence overnight following “an attack on their station with an ax and live ammunition.”

“Calm must absolutely be restored,” Darmanin said in an interview with French broadcaster RTL.

On Tuesday, the French Interior Ministry sent police reinforcements to New Caledonia, which long served as a prison colony and now hosts a French military base. A thousand gendarmes and 700 police officers have been deployed and a dozen professionals from a specialized police intervention and riot control unit have