The rightwing mayor of a French Riviera beach town where bathers asked a burkini-wearing Australian to leave has defended their complaints -- calling her behaviour "indecent".

Sydney native Zeynab Alshelh "could have asked herself whether the people in the area weren't still reeling from the jihadist attack that killed 86 people" in nearby Nice in July, Lionnel Luca told AFP by telephone late Monday.

"She could not just innocently come to our beaches with religious garb that is the sign of the fundamentalism that killed us," he said, calling the 23-year-old's actions "pretty indecent".

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