Checks on French rail network after bomb find25/03/2004 - 06:23:46
A massive inspection of the French rail network was getting under way today after a railway worker found a bomb with seven detonators buried in the bed of a commuter line between France and Switzerland.
It was the second bomb found in just over a month on a rail track in France.
Bomb disposal experts neutralised the device, which was half-buried under a track in the village of Montieramey, about 106 miles south east of Paris, on a train line heading from Paris to Basel, Switzerland, the interior ministry said.
The state-run train authority said it would carry out a massive search of tracks, starting with those carrying passengers and hazardous materials. All traffic was stopped on the line, which transports both passengers and freight, the SNCF authority said.
The device turned up near the town of Troyes, where Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin made a campaign stop hours after the discovery. He was campaigning for Sunday’s regional elections.
Raffarin – who travelled by plane, as is his habit – called for calm.
“For the moment, we have no information about how dangerous this device may be,” the Prime Minister said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Investigators, following hints from a mysterious group calling itself AZF, found a bomb on the Paris-Toulouse train line, near Limoges in central France, on February 21. The group threatened to set off nine bombs planted in the rail network unless it was paid sums of $4m (€3.3m) and €1m.
France has been on high alert since the March 11 train bombings in Madrid that killed 190 people, with soldiers patrolling train stations and airports.
“Those doing this are expecting a psychotic reaction,” said interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
However, Sarkozy said there were “a certain number of elements” that led officials to believe the two cases were not linked.
Some 10,000 maintenance workers had inspected thousands of miles of track after the government made the threats from AZF public on March 3.
The latest device was found at 12.35am yesterday (11.35am Irish time), in a see-through plastic box 7.8 by 7.8 inches.
The box contained nitrate fuel and a flat-shaped battery linked to seven detonators and a handmade timing device, the interior ministry said, adding that a wire was separated from the explosive.
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