x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

TNT in Paris not from al Qa'eda

French police do not suspect al Qa'eda was behind the planting of dynamite in a Paris store.

PARIS // Islamic militants are not the main focus of a French police investigation into the mysterious planting of dynamite in a Paris department store, the defence minister said today. France immediately ordered beefed-up security following yesterday's bomb scare, claimed by a previously unknown group that demanded the withdrawal of France's 2,800 troops in Afghanistan. The pack of old dynamite sticks found at the Printemps store lacked detonators and experts said the incident didn't fit the typical operations of Islamist groups like al Qa'eda.

But the discovery renewed concern over the risks of terrorism, especially during the vulnerable holiday season, and rattled shoppers and store employees. French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was meeting with police and intelligence chiefs and representatives from major stores, transit networks and Paris airports today. Security guards at Printemps checked customers' bags this morning at the store's entrance.

The scare was claimed by the "Afghan Revolutionary Front," a name not previously known to French police and intelligence officials. A letter sent to a French news agency warned that if French troops are not pulled from Afghanistan before the end of February "we will go back into action in your big capitalist stores and this time without warning." Defense Minister Herve Morin, spoke RTL radio today and said the letter didn't fit the profile of Islamic militants. "The word 'revolutionary' in the group's name, the word 'capitalist' to designate the stores, the lack of reference to Islam or jihad add up, in effect, to the fact that the Islamist trail isn't the first trail."

The incident renewed concerns that France could be targeted for its role in both the Nato effort to stabilise Afghanistan and the US-led effort to fight al Qa'eda and Taliban insurgents there. Mr Morin reiterated France's recent stance regarding Afghanistan that "the answer is not only military", and insisted stable government institutions need to be fostered in the war-ravaged country. * AP