Paris bomb threats ‘false alarms’

2010-09-15 07:44

Paris, France – The Eiffel Tower and its immediate surroundings were evacuated after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat, but a police search turned up nothing suspicious.

Officials evacuated about 2?000 people and combed through the 324-metre tower yesterday evening, a Paris police spokesperson said.

French media reported that by midnight, people were walking around and riding bikes underneath France’s most popular tourist spot again.

The tower itself, which had 6.6 million visitors last year, usually closes at 11pm.

Media reported that the scare was a false alarm. Paris police did not immediately return calls seeking information.

French media also said parts of a second tourist hub – the Saint-Michel subway station near Notre Dame Cathedral – were briefly evacuated following a similar threat.

The station was the target of a terrorist attack in 1995 that killed eight and injured scores of people.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the threats.

But it comes after the head of France’s counterespionage agency was quoted this weekend as saying that the risk of a terrorist attack on French soil has never been higher.

Bernard Squarcini told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper that France’s history as a colonial master in North Africa, its military presence in Afghanistan and a bill aimed at banning burqa-style Muslim veils in public all make the country a prime target for certain radical Islamist groups.

Earlier yesterday, the ban on face-covering Islamic veils passed its final hurdle in parliament, but there was no immediate indication the threats were linked to the proposed ban.

The proposal drew the indignation of the second-in-command of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahri, who said the drive to ban the veil amounted to discrimination against Muslim women.

Bomb threats are frequent in Paris, a city that has also experienced terrorism firsthand.

Algerian Islamic insurgents bombed the Saint-Michel station on July 25, 1995, killing eight people and injuring 150.

It was the first attack in a campaign of violence that terrorised Paris subway commuters.

Gas cooking canisters loaded with nails, sometimes hidden in garbage cans, were used in many of the bombings.

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