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French officials say bomb caused deadly train blast

Paris explosion

Anti-terrorist security plan reactivated

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December 3, 1996
Web posted at: 2:45 p.m. EST (1945 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- A bomb that tore through a Paris commuter train during the evening rush hour killed at least two people and injured dozens more, authorities said. French officials reactivated a nationwide security plan drawn up after a series of terrorist bombings last year.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's blast.

Sources said the bomb was stored in a 33-pound (15 kilo) gas canister, similar to those used by Algerian Muslim fundamentalists who claimed responsibility for most of last year's bombings.

Officials said the blast occurred at 6:05 p.m. (12:05 p.m. EST/1705 GMT) at the Port-Royal station, a ground-level station on the RER regional line used by thousands of commuters in and out of the French capital. RER lines run both above and under ground.

The Port-Royal station is located on the city's Left Bank, between the Boulevard St. Michel and the Boulevard Montparnasse on the edge of the Latin Quarter. movie icon (533K/13 sec. QuickTime movie of scenes outside the station after the blast)

CNN's Jim Bittermann reports from Paris
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Anti-terrorist plan reactivated

"There was an explosive device that was put in a subway car," French Prime Minister Alain Juppe told reporters. He said officials put back into effect an emergency vigilance plan activated after France was hit last year by eight subway bombings that killed eight people and wounded 160.

The security plan, called "Vigipirate," involves police and army patrols in sensitive public areas and spot checks across the country.


Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre said France was tightening its borders as a precaution, and train stations and airports across France were on alert and increasing security.

President Jacques Chirac condemned what he called "these unacceptable acts, these barbaric acts that always attack innocent people."

"The government and I are determined to fight against terrorism in all its forms. Nothing will be neglected," Chirac said in a news conference outside the presidential Elysee Palace.

CNN's Peter Humi reports from Paris
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AIFF or WAV sound)

'Totally blown apart'

Tuesday's blast took place in a carriage of the RER train. Witnesses said the scene was one of panic, of thick black smoke, the chilling wail of ambulances, and paramedics frantically carrying away thrashing wounded on stretchers.

"We heard a strong blast," one witness said. "There was a column of black smoke (and) a strong smell of powder, like at a shooting range," she said.

The train car was a burned-out hulk of wreckage, its doors blown off by the force of the blast, and a second car was damaged. "It was totally blown apart," said a man who lives above the station.

The explosion occurred on the same line, and two stations away from the worst of last year's bombings, which killed eight people at the St. Michel RER station.

Officials said the bomb exploded on one of the first cars of a long subway commuter train heading toward the southern Paris suburb of St.-Remy les Chevreuse.

Paris Bureau Chief Peter Humi and Correspondent Jim Bittermann, and Reuters contributed to this report.


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