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Paris rail stations closed after CIA bomb alert

PARIS, April 8 (AFP) – Paris city rail traffic was temporarily brought to a halt and five stations evacuated Thursday evening following a CIA alert of a possible bomb attack, police said.

The CIA (The US Central Intelligence Agency) had warned French domestic counter-intelligence of a threat to carry out an attack Thursday on either the Paris suburban rail network or the subway, they said.

Traffic was temporarily halted on the A line of the Paris regional suburban rail network, the RER, which also runs through the city centre.

Police evacuated the stations after the CIA informed the French of an anonymous message it had received from Madrid warning of a possible attack between 1830 and 1930 GMT.

The RER stations affected included one at the Gare de Lyon mainline rail station.

“Following a bomb alert, traffic will be temporarily suspended on the RER A line from 8:15 pm (1815 GMT) and the main stations and interconnections will be evacuated to allow security services to carry out the necessary searches,” a spokesman for the Paris police service said at the start of the state of alert.

Police later announced they had ended the state of alert at 9:30 pm after an interruption of about one hour and a half.

“Following systematic searches of stations on RER A line, the police prefecture has requested the RATP (Paris region transport authority) to resume normal traffic,” a police spokesman said.

Police said the warning to the CIA came in an anonymous e-mail message from Madrid, where massive bomb attacks at rail stations left 191 people dead on March 11.

Paris police said Thursday’s state of alert caused disruption to traffic during the rush hour.

But there was no panic during a period of the day when some 40,000 commuters were using the A line running acros Paris from east to west and serving major business districts such as La Defense and the Champs-Elysees, as well as Chatelet-Les Halles, the capital’s biggest urban communications hub.

A large police turnout carried out searches, including tight inspections of passengers’ luggage.

On March 12 the French authorities raised to the security alert to red at railway stations and airports.

Last December 24 and 25, the French government cancelled six flights from Paris to the United States after American security authorities provided warnings of possible bomb attacks.

Two unexploded bombs were found in February and March next to busy French rail lines. Investigators said they could have been made only by people who had trained as military personnel or engineers.

Last month French police and intelligence urgently launched a hunt for clues to a mysterious group calling itself AZF that tried to blackmail the authorities for money, threatening bomb attacks on railways that it said would outdo even Madrid’s March 11 bombings.

AZF later sent a letter to the interior ministry saying it was suspending its threat because of technical and logistical problems, but that once it returned with a demand for money this must be paid “without discussion”.

The group, which initially carried on an exchange with authorities through coded messages in newspaper classified advertisements after first surfacing in mid-December, set a price of four million dollars and two million euros in cash.

It warned it was capable of making sure “France will surpass ingloriously the sad records of Spain” – a reference to the March 11 train bombings thought to have been carried out by Al-Qaeda.

                                                                 Subject: French news