CERGY, France, March 10 (AFP) – Rail traffic was halted for an hour north of Paris Wednesday during a bomb scare sparked by a telephone call purportedly from a group that has been threatening to bomb the French rail network for the past three months.
The caller to the Garges-Sarcelles commuter station in the Val d’Oise area, 10 minutes by train from the French capital, claimed to speak for the group, known as AZF, which has been demanding more than five million dollars in ransom.
“In five minutes the Garges station is going to blow up. This is AZF,” the caller was quoted as telling police from a telephone booth in the area at 2:20 pm (1320 GMT).
About 40 police mounted a search of the five tracks running into the station in a one-kilometer (half a mile) radius.
Traffic resumed on the RER commuter and SNCF national lines at around 3:30 pm.
Police across the country have been trying to uncover who was behind the unknown AZF group – former soldiers, a religious sect, a terrorist organization or, the least likely option, crafty amateurs involved in an elaborate hoax.
Last week authorities carried out a comprehensive search of the entire 32,000 kilometer (20,000 mile) French rail system but failed to find any bombs.
But they remain on high alert, especially after the French daily Le Monde last Friday published parts of AZF’s letters, in which the group warned it had planted two additional bombs at “sites chosen for their great sensitivity and relatively weak protection”.
Subject: France news