Azerbaijan rejects 'baseless' French claims of interference in New Caledonia

Azerbaijan on Thursday rejected French accusations of "interference" in New Caledonia, the Pacific territory hit by deadly pro-independence riots in recent days.

"We completely reject the baseless accusations," Azerbaijan's foreign ministry spokesman Ayhan Hajizadeh said. "We refute any connection between the leaders of the struggle for freedom in Caledonia and Azerbaijan."

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday accused  Azerbaijan of "interference" in the unrest but did not expand on what he meant.

France deployed troops to New Caledonia's ports and international airport, banned TikTok and imposed a state of emergency on Thursday after three nights of clashes that have left four dead and hundreds wounded.

Pro-independence, largely indigenous protests against a French plan to impose new voting rules on its Pacific archipelago have spiralled into the deadliest violence since the 1980s, with a police officer among several killed by gunfire.

Palm-lined boulevards, usually thronged with tourists, were littered with debris and patrolled by armoured vehicles, while some fearful locals piled up household objects to make roadblocks.

There was a suspected arson attack on the building housing a consultative body for the indigenous Kanak people, its communications staff said, although the extent of the damage was not immediately clear.

As part of a sweeping French response, security forces placed five suspected ringleaders under house arrest, according to a statement by the high commission, which represents the French state in New Caledonia.

House searches would be carried out "in the coming hours", it said.

More than 200 "rioters" have been arrested since the clashes broke out, the high commission said,...

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