McDonald's bomb kills woman in Brittany

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The Independent Online

A terrorist bomb, believed to be the work of Breton separatists, killed a young woman employee at a McDonald's restaurant near Dinan in Brittany yesterday.

The death - the first in any attack by non-Corsican separatists in France - raises the prospect of a bloody extension of what has until now been a campaign of mostly nuisance bombings by Breton extremists.

Anti-terrorist police believe that the group suspected of planting the bomb - the Armée Révolutionnaire Bretonne (ARB) - has formed an alliance with French-based elements of Eta, the Basque separatist group.

Another bomb was defused outside the main post office in the Breton capital, Rennes, yesterday morning. The dynamite used in that bomb was stolen in September in an operation for which both Breton and Basque separatists were later arrested.

The McDonald's bomb exploded at 10am yesterday beside the drive-through window of the restaurant at Quévert, near Dinan. The detonation blew out the windows, destroyed part of the roof and left a crater in the ground.

The 27-year-old woman who died, who was not immediately named, was standing in the entrance porch to the restaurant and caught the full force of the blast. Her body was found in nearby bushes. Two other employees and three customers escaped without injury.

The choice of a McDonald's restaurant as a target, duringthe working day, is a disturbing development. Most Breton bombings single out symbols of the French state and try to avoid causing injury or loss of life.

McDonald's has recently been a target for attacks by French farmers, who made the American burger group a whipping boy for supposed economic and gastronomic imperialism. What symbolic relevance McDonald's has to the issue of Breton independence is not clear.

The selecting of the fast-food chain may have been influenced by a campaign of attacks on the restaurants last summer, carried out with sledgehammers and tractors and led by the leader of a group representing small farmers, José Bové. Mr Bové's organisation, the Confederation Paysanne, condemned yesterday's attack. However, his activities in last summer's campaign have helped to generate a mood of inchoate anti-Americanism in rural France. Three shots were fired at the same McDonald's branch near Dinan a month ago.

The head of France's anti-terrorist police squad, with judicial teams, travelled to Brittany to take charge of the inquiry. The Interior Minister, Jean-Pierre Chevÿnement, issued a sombre statement, drawing attention to the bloody Rubicon crossed by yesterday's blast.

"Previous criminal acts [in Brittany] have caused serious physical destruction, but none has had such tragic consequences," the statement said. "Nothing in our Republic can justify such recourse to violence and the proliferation of acts with fatally tragic consequences."

Anti-terrorist police have been concerned for some time by evidence that a Breton extremist splinter group had fallen under the influence of Eta. There has been an increasing number of small bombings in recent months but none, until now, had threatened injury or death.

There is substantial minority support in Brittany for greater regional autonomy, but no significant support for the fractured Breton independence movements.

McDonald's France said it was "devastated" by the attack. "Our first thoughts are for our employee and her family," a company spokesman said.