Explosives found in Paris store

Group warns of blasts across capital unless French troops leave Afghanistan

Paris faces the threat of a terror campaign against Christmas shoppers after the discovery of five sticks of unfused dynamite in the massive Printemps department store in the heart of the city yesterday.

An unknown group warned that explosives would be detonated without warning in large "capitalist" stores unless France removed its troops from Afghanistan by the end of February.

Although the statement did not carry the usual hall-marks of al-Qa'ida, or other extreme Islamist groups, the warning was being taken seriously last night by French authorities. The ageing dynamite was found yesterday morning in the cistern of a toilet on the third floor in the menswear section of the designer brands store which is usually packed with Christmas shoppers at this time of year. An accurate warning letter had arrived at the French news agency, Agence France-Presse, yesterday morning signed by the Front Révolutionnaire Afghan.

All three Printemps buildings on the Boulevard Haussmann, the most crowded shopping street in Paris, were immediately evacuated. A police sniffer dog rapidly located the explosives, which were tied together with rope.

Police sources said that several factors suggested this might be the work of cranks or a marginal, extremist group, rather than an Islamist movement. The use of ageing, unfused sticks of dynamite, the dispatch of an accurate, warning letter and the use of the word "capitalist" all pointed away, they said, from a genuine Islamist or Afghan connection. On the other hand, they said, the letter was written in poor and ungrammatical French. There had been "little chance" of the dynamite exploding, they said. All the same, the letter's warning would be taken seriously and security in all large Paris stores and shopping streets would be tightened.

President Nicolas Sarkozy said that there was no question of France withdrawing its troops under terrorist threat and urged caution. "At this point in time I would call on everyone to be very prudent and very moderate," M. Sarkozy said.

While visiting the store just before it reopened yesterday afternoon the Interior Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, said: "Five sticks of dynamite, which were relatively old, were found in a toilet cistern on the third floor. The device was not operational. We must be cautious about the claims in the letter, which might be intended to send the investigation on a false trail."

The letter was posted in north-east Paris on Monday evening.

A Taliban leader warned in a video released last month – but apparently recorded in August – that attacks would be made in Paris unless France withdraws the 2,700 troops which are serving with other Nato forces. Farouq Akhoun Zadeh, who appeared in the video, claimed to be the leader of a Taliban force which had killed 10 French soldiers. He said: "This is a message to the French: if they don't admit their mistake and withdraw from Afghanistan, our response will be heard in Paris."

Seven "presumed jihadists" were arrested in the Paris suburbs yesterday but police said that they had no connection with the incident at Printemps.

The store, opened in 1865, has 2,000 employees and attracts an average of 100,000 shoppers a day – many more in the week before Christmas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot