Paris -

A Roma teen was fighting for his life in a Paris hospital after being attacked by a mob who accused him of burglarising an apartment in their housing project, French media reports said late on Monday.

The 16-year-old was found unconscious in a supermarket trolley on Friday evening in the north-eastern suburb of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine after being badly beaten by a group of local residents, France Info radio reported.

He was rushed to hospital, where he remained in a coma on Monday.

Officials told the radio the group had come looking for the youth earlier that day at the abandoned house opposite the housing project, where he was living with his family.

They took him away and locked him a basement where he was accused of breaking into an apartment, and then was beaten, they said.

His mother raised the alarm with police.

Pierrefitte-sur-Seine is in the gritty, densely populated Seine-Saint-Denis department, where large Roma camps have sprung up in the last decade.

The president of the department, Stephane Troussel, condemned an “odious attack, carried out under cover of settling scores”.

“The French Republic has a duty to protect all, no matter where they live and what their origins are,” Troussel was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

Pierrefitte Mayor Michel Fourcade told France Info that the teen had been detained several times recently on suspicion of theft. Residents were “exasperated” after several cars in the neighbourhood had been vandalised and apartments burgled, he said, while insisting he was not seeking in any way to justify the attack.

Hostility toward Roma migrants has grown sharply in France in recent years.

Some anti-racism campaigners have linked the development to remarks by politicians stigmatising the community.

France is home to an estimated 20 000 Roma, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria. -