PARIS // Police found explosives hidden in a Paris department store today after a tip-off from a group demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan. The group called itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front, but French officials said they had never heard of it before and warned it might be a false lead. The interior minister Michele Alliot-Marie said five "relatively old" sticks of dynamite were discovered in the Printemps store. The explosives were not attached to detonators, suggesting the aim was to spread alarm rather than cause death and destruction. The French president Nicolas Sarkozy said France would not negotiate with terrorists and urged caution. "At this point in time I would call on everyone to be very prudent and very measured," he said during a visit to eastern France. The tip-off was sent by letter to a French news agency, warning that bombs had been planted in the Printemps store on the Boulevard Haussmann, which is usually packed with Christmas shoppers at this time of year. Dynamite was found in a lavatory on the third floor of the men's section of the huge store, which was allowed to reopen some five hours after the alarm was raised. Two police officials had earlier said explosives were found on two floors. "If you do not intervene before Wednesday Dec 17, they will explode," the letter said, according to extracts carried on the website of the daily Le Monde. "Bring this message to your president so that he withdraws his troops from our country before the end of Feb 2009 or we will return to action in your big capitalist stores and this time without warning you." Police said that recent attacks in Europe tied to Iraq and Afghanistan had been launched without specific prior warning. "Anything can be written in a text," said the interior minister said. "There might be things that are designed to send one off in the wrong direction." France has more than 2,600 troops stationed in Afghanistan fighting Taliban forces. Last month, a militant group warned in a video aired on Al Arabiya television that it would attack Paris unless the soldiers went home. Ten French soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack in Afghanistan in August and two died last month in a mine blast. *Reuters
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