After Bombing, Parisians Brace for Another Wave of Attacks
PARIS (AP) _ Hundreds of soldiers and police patrolled the streets of Paris today after a deadly bombing on a crowded commuter train, and a newspaper said investigators suspected Islamic militants.
Almost 1,000 officers were on duty at train stations, airports and other public places in Paris, in a return of anti-terrorism measures imposed after a wave of bombings by Algerian militants in the French capital last year.
Two people were killed and 35 seriously wounded, seven of them critically, when a bomb exploded on a commuter train just as it was pulling into a station near the famed Latin Quarter on Tuesday night. About 50 people were slightly hurt.
No one has claimed responsibility, but Le Monde said investigators believed Islamic militants were prime suspects.
``Algeria is just a hypothesis. Everything is possible,″ French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jacques Rummelhardt said at a daily news briefing.
Le Monde quoted ``an official source″ as saying there had been numerous alerts of an attack in recent months. ``The arrival in France of commandos from abroad was mentioned,″ it quoted the unidentified official as saying.
An internal document written by France’s counterespionage agency said an Algerian radical living in Afghanistan was preparing to ``commit an attack against French interests,″ Le Monde quoted the document as saying.
Algerian Islamic militants consider France’s tacit support of Algeria’s army-backed government a major obstacle to their fight to establish an Islamic state in the former French colony in northern Africa.
Tuesday’s explosion blew seats to bits and bent steel doors in half on a train near the Luxembourg Gardens on the RER regional line, which shuttles thousands of commuters in and out of Paris each day. The smell of smoke hung over the city for blocks.
``Everyone had the impression these kinds of attacks were over,″ computer consultant David Coulot said at a bus stop in Paris not far from the site of the rush-hour blast. ``It’s anguishing because wherever we are, there’s no place to hide.″
State-run France Info radio said many more might have died had the entire station been underground, instead of partly in the open air, concentrating the force of the blast.
The bomb was in a 28-pound gas canister, and Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre said today that nails and black powder were found at the site.
Such bombs were the signature devices used in last year’s wave of bombings in Paris that killed eight people and injured more than 160 in subway cars and marketplaces.
A source close to the investigation told The Associated Press that the bomb also had been fitted with a battery-powered detonator _ another signature technique of Algerian militants. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the bomb was concealed beneath a folding seat next to the train car’s sliding doors.
In a reinstatement of last year’s anti-terrorist operations, metal barriers were being erected today around what the government called ``sensitive sites.″
Debre also said barricades were being erected in front of schools, and he was meeting today with the heads of department stores, restaurants, theaters and other businesses to review their security measures.
Within hours of the blast, 400 soldiers and police were patrolling Parisian streets, and at least 500 more joined them today, radio stations reported. Some were armed with machine guns.
At the Eiffel Tower, police officers patrolled in small groups; a bus with 30 officers sitting inside was parked nearby.
Across France, border controls were stepped up and security was tightened in other major cities.
``The government and I are determined to fight against terrorism in all its forms,″ President Jacques Chirac said. ``No stone will be left unturned.″
Commuters on the Paris subway today heard an announcement every three minutes reminding them of the bombing and urging them to be vigilant.
But the Metro, as the city’s busiest mode of transportation is known, remained full.
``I’m afraid. Very afraid. But they’ll keep taking the Metro. They have no choice,″ said Gisele Hannatin, 38, who sells tickets in the Montparnasse station, a mile from the blast.
But many people said the attack made them scared to ride the subway.
``If my professor hadn’t kept us late, I could have been killed,″ said Anne-Helia Roure, a student at a nearby high school. She said she usually takes the 6:05 p.m. train at Port Royal, but was kept in class an extra 20 minutes Tuesday.