French forces smashed through around 60 road blocks to clear the way from conflict-stricken New Caledonia’s capital to the airport. However, they still have not reopened the route, a top government official said on Sunday.

After six nights of violence, which left six dead and hundreds injured, security forces will launch “harassment” raids to reclaim other parts of the Pacific territory, the French government representative in New Caledonia, Louis Le Franc, said in a televised address.

“Republican order will be re-established whatever the cost,” Le Franc, the central government’s high commissioner, warned the radicals behind the violence.

The Pacific archipelago of 270,000 people has been convulsed by unrest since Monday, sparked by French plans to impose new voting rules that would give tens of thousands of non-indigenous residents voting rights.

The territory has long suffered from ethnic tensions and opposition to French rule by Kanak groups.

Authorities said that 600 heavily armed police took part in an operation on Sunday to retake the 60-kilometer (40-mile) main road from Noumea to the airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since the unrest erupted.

Le Franc said that around 60 roadblocks put up by pro-independence groups had been “broken through” without violence.

But the official added that the route was full of wrecks of cars, burned wood and metal, which had only been cleared at 15 of the roadblocks. Le Franc said that the road was also damaged in several places.

AFP journalists on the road found that some roadblocks had been re-established by separatists, although they were eventually able to reach the airport.

Le Franc said that police units would launch “harassment operations” in the coming hours to retake “hardcore” areas in Noumea and the towns of Dumbea and Paita.

“It is going to intensify in the coming days” in zones held by independence activists, said Le Franc. “If they want to use their arms, they will be risking the worst.”

“I want to tell the rioters: stop, return to calm, give up your arms,” added Le Franc, saying that the crisis remains “unprecedented” and “grave.”

With AFP