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The French Government on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in the Pacific overseas territory of New Caledonia, ordered French troops to the islands and banned TikTok, amid violent clashes over a controversial electoral reform bill that have killed three indigenous activists and two law enforcement officers, Le Monde reported.

The state of emergency, enforced after two nights of violence despite a curfew in the capital Noumea, led France to send nearly a thousand police and paramilitary officers to New Caledonia in order to crack down on the riots, Reuters reported.

French authorities said clashes continued overnight. Meanwhile, on Thursday, one gendarme was killed by “friendly fire,” the Interior Ministry told the newswire.

In their confrontations with pro-independence activists, mostly indigenous Kanaks, some residents in favor of French rule – known locally as “loyalists” – have organized into armed militias and set up barricades, reported public network Franceinfo.

The loyalist militias, made up mostly of “white” Caledonians, killed three Kanak youths earlier this week, wrote French newspaper L’Humanité.

Longstanding tensions flared up on Monday ahead of a French parliamentary vote on a bill allowing people who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years or more to vote in local elections. So far, only people who registered before 1998 and their descendants had that right.

Advocates for the archipelago’s full independence from France argue the enfranchisement is meant to dilute support for their cause.

The French government said the move was necessary to enhance democracy. On Tuesday night, France’s lower chamber in Paris approved the bill.

The French government, meanwhile, said it was open to changes in the bill, by enfranchising people born in New Caledonia only, public radio France Inter reported.

Voter roll changes in New Caledonia require an amendment to the French Constitution, passed by three-fifths of France’s legislature. Macron announced that he would set a legislative vote in June if Caledonians do not reach an alternative deal.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Thursday accused Azerbaijan of supporting pro-independence advocates. A source within French intelligence told Politico they had detected Russian and Azerbaijani interference in New Caledonia, “pushing the narrative of France being a colonialist state.”

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