Protests have flared up in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia with several buildings set on fire, including a police station and a town hall, after pro-independence activists were arrested and taken to France.

The latest round of violence on Monday came as France prepares to vote in legislative elections this weekend and support for the far right surges across the country.

In mid-May, rioting and looting erupted in New Caledonia over an electoral reform plan that Indigenous Kanak people feared would leave them in a permanent minority, putting independence hopes definitively out of reach.

The unrest killed nine people and caused damage estimated at more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.6bn).

In recent days, French authorities had insisted that Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, was back under their control.

But violence erupted again after seven pro-independence activists accused of orchestrating the deadly riots were sent to France for pre-trial detention over the weekend.

On Monday, the pro-independence movement CCAT (Field Action Coordination Cell) denounced France’s “colonial tactics” and demanded the “immediate release and return” of the activists, including its head Christian Tein, saying they should be tried in New Caledonia.

French prosecutors said the activists had been sent to mainland France “in order to allow the investigations to continue in a calm manner, free of any pressure”.

The High Commission in Noumea, which represents the French state in the archipelago, said in a statement that the night was “marked by unrest throughout the mainland [of the territory] and on the island of Pins and Mare, requiring the intervention of numerous reinforcements with attacks on the police, arson and roadblocks.”

It said “several fires were extinguished”, particularly in Ducos and Magenta, adding that “premises and vehicles of the municipal police and private vehicles” were set on fire.

“Abuses, destruction and attempted fires were also committed in several places in Paita,” in the Noumea suburbs, added the High Commission, which added that police in Mare had also been attacked.

Many schools were closed on Monday due to the renewed unrest.

The French government responded to the violence by sending more than 3,000 soldiers and police to New Caledonia.

Nearly 1,500 people have been arrested since the unrest began, including 38 on Monday.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said the controversial voting reform would be suspended due to the snap parliamentary polls in France.

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