A previously-unknown terrorist group has brought the centre of Paris to a standstill, planting explosives in one of the city’s large department stores. Following a tip-off, five sticks of dynamite were found at the luxury Printemps store in the 9th arrondissement. A group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front said it was a warning to France to pull out of Afghanistan, where it has some 2,600 troops deployed.
But there were no detonators on the explosives, and no mention of Islam in the warning, as has become the norm in messages to the West. France’s Interior Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie said the whole affair might have been intended to confuse investigators, and might have nothing to do with Afghanistan. President Sarkozy urged people to remember the ever-present threat of terrorism. “We must continue to be vigilant, it is the only way,” he said. “Because sadly, anything can happen. However, we will never negotiate with terrorists.” The Printemps store is vast; the bomb squad had the headache of searching countless potential hiding places for other devices, before sounding the all-clear. “All three parts of the building have been checked, and security levels are at maximum. Therefore we can re-open to the public,” said the shop’s director, Pierre Pelarrey. It was a stressful time for all involved, as the streets around Printemps were sealed off during the emergency. Shoppers were allowed back into the store some five hours after the alarm was raised.