French police play down female suicide bomber rumour

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After two weeks in which French officials have repeatedly ratcheted up concerns over imminent attacks, the police chief talked down Thursday rumours that a female suicide bomber was preparing to strike.

Frederic Pechenard, France's top cop, spoke to the daily Liberation to calm tensions over a report, which led prosecutors to open an inquiry, that a woman was ready to trigger a mass casualty attack on a Paris transport hub.

"They woke me up at 1.30 in the morning, on September 16, to tell me that a service from a friendly country had intelligence that an attack was planned in Paris on that very day," Pechenard told the daily.

"We took all the necessary measures of increased vigilance in public spaces, railway stations and airports. Obviously, this threat lost credibility insofar as nothing happened," the Director General of National Police said.

Nevertheless, Pechenard insisted that France is still at risk of an attack by Islamist extremists, echoing statements from several senior officials in recent days that intelligence reports point to a growing threat.

© 2010 AFP

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