Print clue in French bombing Algerian hunted for bombing

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FRENCH police were hunting yesterday for a man whose fingerprints, they say, were found on an unexploded bomb beside a high-speed TGV rail line near Lyons last month. The announcement came as 31 people were rounded up for questioning in a police swoop on several Lyons suburbs where a high proportion of North African immigrants reside.

Investigators said fingerprints matching those of Khaled Kelkal, a 24-year-old Algerian-born resident of Lyons, were found on the device which failed to explode, due to a faulty detonator, on 26 August. Algerian Muslim extremists are suspected in six bomb incidents in Paris and Lyons in the past six weeks, in which seven people have been killed and more than 130 injured.

The devices were explosive-filled gas canisters, most of them packed with nails and bolts to cause maximum damage, a technique used by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in its fight against the Algerian government.

Judicial sources said the swoops were ordered by Laurence Le Vert, the Paris anti-terrorist magistrate who last week remanded in custody four members of an Islamic group in Lyons who were suspected of bomb and other offences "linked to a terrorist organisation''. A car bomb outside a Jewish school in Villeurbanne injured 14 people last Thursday, minutes before 700 pupils ended their school day.

Photographs of Mr Kelkal were shown on television hours after the round- up began. Reports said he was also wanted for shooting and wounding two police officers at a checkpoint near Lyons.

Investigators believe the attacks are aimed at forcing the French government to end its economic support for the Algerian government or to avenge the deaths of four GIA guerrillas, killed by French commandos last December, after they hijacked a French airliner.

Anticipating further bomb attacks, the French government has deployed 1,800 troops at airports and railway stations. Soldiers with assault rifles are in position at Parisian tourist spots.