Business as usual as bombs hit Paris

Beneath the sang-froid, Stephen Jessel finds a city in fear of Islamic violence

GENERATIONS of teenagers attending the College Condorcet, not far from the Gare St Lazare in Paris, have loitered outside on the corner of the rue d'Amsterdam and the rue de Bucarest, waiting for the bell to signal the start of classes, chattering, pushing each other, pulling on final, illicit cigarettes.

But these days they have been ordered to wait inside the school building. Trips by Metro to the Bois de Boulogne for sport are off. They go in a hired coach, or exercise in the school yard.

After six bombs and attempted bombings in three months the education system - like the rest of the capital - is on red alert.

A mile or so away in the rue de la Victoire, car-owners have seen some of their rare residents' parking spaces blocked off by metal barriers; there is a primary school in the street and no parking is allowed within a dozen metres of the gate.

Paris used to be one of Europe's cleaner capitals. Now papers, soft drink cans and other litter disfigure streets and Metro stations after the sealing or removal of rubbish bins in areas considered likely targets.

The first and bloodiest attack in the wave of bombings killed seven people at the Saint-Michel RER (express undergound) station on 25 July. A device exploded in a litter bin near the Arc de Triomphe in mid-August, injuring 17 people; another hidden in a pressure cooker injured four at an open- air market early in September, while a bomb timed to explode at the same time at another market failed to go off.

This month there was an explosion at a Metro station to coincide with the funeral of the young Algerian terrorist suspect, Khaled Kelkal, killed by police. On Tuesday a second attack on the RER injured 29 people.

Superficially,Parisians seem to be taking the terrorist campaign in their stride. The Champs-Elysees are as busy as ever and restaurants are full. There are long queues for the latest Gerard Depardieu film.

Parisians have been here before. During the 1980s there were sporadic attacks, often against Jewish targets. In 1986, a particularly black year, there was a series of blasts, including the bombing of a clothes shop which killed seven people.

Most of those attacks had a Palestinian or Middle East dimension. Carlos the Jackal, now in prison in France awaiting trial, was allegedly involved in at least some of them.

The capital has always been heavily policed, but to meet this latest wave of attacks security has been massively and obviously increased. Under the Vigipirate emergency scheme hundreds of extra men and women are on the streets, including some troops. A bus full of CRS paramilitary police is parked under the Eiffel Tower and the nearest RER station is intensively patrolled.

But on another level the campaign is beginning to take its toll. "Yes, I'm worried," said a waitress in a restaurant not far from the Champs- Elysees.

"This morning there was a bag under a seat in the Metro and I asked the woman sitting on the seat if it was hers. You can't be too careful."

At the autumn fashion shows even the most distinguished of guests were frisked. Security staff in shops and other public places check bags, even though the bombers' pattern is well established: they use gas cylinders or other metal containers packed with nuts and bolts to act as a kind of shrapnel.

Such packages are not easy to hide and may explain why the RER, where the carriages are often double-deckers and partitioned, has been chosen over the more open-plan Metro.

Hoaxes and false alarms add to the feeling of insecurity. Hundreds of police identity checks are carried out daily. Newspapers carry telephone numbers of clinics offering counselling for those affected by bombs.

Wealthy, conservative Paris is psychologically a world away from the new towns and dormitory suburbs that closely ring it.The Algerian and other North African communities have their enclaves in the city itself, most noticeably in the Barbes-Rochechouart area. But Parisians' contact with the Algerian com munity, apart from the owners of small late-opening mini-markets, is relatively limited.

Now they have to come to terms with the arrival in their city of the shockwaves of the savage civil war in Algeria and the danger that the anger, frustration and resentment of young Arabs is being channelled into a radical and lethal fundamentalism.

There were fears during the Gulf War that the millions of North African first and second generation immigrants might provide a reservoir of sympathy for Saddam Hussein. In the event there was no sign of any significant support for him.

But this time things may be different. Mouloud Aounit, secretary-general of the anti-racist group Mrap, fears that the terrorist campaign is having a dangerous effect on race relations. He says previously undecided people are becoming more receptive to the poisonous xenophobia of the National Front.

"The Algerian community is closing in on itself; there are fewer openings to the rest of French society. And police identity checks based on the colour of your skin are alienating still further the young."

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel