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US Paris embassy bomb alert

PARIS, Dec 8 (AFP) – French police holding 10 people in relation to a warning of a bomb attack against the US embassy in Paris said Monday the alarm appeared to be a hoax but the suspects would likely be prosecuted for visa violations.

The 10 – most of whom were Egyptians in France illegally – were arrested Sunday after the embassy received a threat from a caller that it was about to be targeted by a “vehicle filled with explosives,” officers with the anti-terrorist squad said.

Security was immediately tightened around the building, located on the Place de la Concorde at the bottom of the famous Champs-Elysees Avenue in the centre of the capital, but no attack or alarming behaviour materialised, police and an embassy spokeswoman told AFP.

The suspects were arrested on the basis of a list of telephone numbers the anonymous caller gave during the warning. But officers said after questioning them Monday and searching their homes that it looked like they had nothing to do with any terrorist plot.

A US embassy spokeswoman, Melissa Clegg-Trip, confirmed that the embassy had received a telephone bomb warning on the weekend and the decision was made to boost security.

“The personnel did meet with the French authorities and we decided we would work today, Monday,” Clegg-Tripp said. “We’re operating normally in all parts of the embassy.”

The spokeswoman said French police had been reinforced around the embassy Monday and an avenue directly in front had been closed to traffic.

The embassy has previously been the target of a bomb plot, according to security agencies.

European intelligence services probing Islamic militant networks believe a group linked to Osama bin Laden had prepared a 1998 attack against the building.

A French-Algerian man, Djamel Beghal, reportedly told French officials in October 2001, after being extradited from the United Arab Emirates, that he had been recruited in Afghanistan to plan that attack, which would have involved driving a explosive-laden truck into the embassy.

Since the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed a total 224 people and the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 that claimed 3,000 lives, US authorities have greatly increased security around its diplomatic missions abroad.

The US embassy, built in 1933, is located a stone’s throw from the French president’s official residence. The US consulate’s visa section is in a separate building on the other side of the Place de la Concorde.

French police protect the outside of the walled property, and moveable solid barriers have been set in place to prevent vehicles from entering through the gates without permission. Pedestrians are not permitted to walk on the footpath near the embassy, and officers have been seen discouraging passers-by from video-taping the building.


                                                                Subject: French news