Bombings in 2 Big Paris Stores Hurt at Least 25

From Times Wire Services

Bombs exploded minutes apart in two adjacent department stores packed with Christmas shoppers Saturday, injuring at least 25 people, eight seriously, and sending panicked crowds fleeing into the streets, rescue workers said.

The Palestine Liberation Front, which hijacked the Italian luxury liner Achille Lauro in October, was one of several groups that claimed responsibility.

Witnesses said two men fled in a car moments after the explosions. No arrests were reported.


A crowded scene of cheerful Christmas shopping turned quickly into one of blood and panic as the bombs ripped through the wedding department of the Galeries Lafayette and the women’s handbag section of the Printemps store in the fashionable Opera district.

‘Iranian Rapprochement’

Police said the Palestinian front claimed responsibility for the bombings in a statement to a French news service, Agence Centrale de Presse. The Palestinian caller said the bombing was against “the French-Iranian rapprochement.”

A French parliamentary delegation is due to go to Tehran next week to try to improve relations. French-Iranian ties have long been strained by French arms sales to Iran’s enemy, Iraq, and a dispute over a $1-billion investment in a French nuclear fuel plant by the late Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, which the revolutionary regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wants back.

Furthermore, the Iranian opposition Moujahedeen, an Islamic socialist group, is based in France. The Moujahedeen have used violence against domestic Iranian targets in fighting the Khomeini regime.

A fire department spokesman said earlier Saturday that 20 people were wounded in the explosion at Galeries Lafayette, and five people were injured at Printemps.

The Galeries Lafayette bomb exploded in the wedding department, one floor underground.

“I heard a very strong explosion coming from underground that made the floor shake, and immediately a thick cloud of black smoke rose from the stairwells and the elevators,” a store worker said.

Another witness said screaming shoppers rushed toward the exits, then flowed into the streets outside, hampering fire trucks and police cars trying to reach the area.

Severe Burns

Of those seriously injured, most suffered from severe burns, Dr. Francis Roy of the City Rescue Service said Saturday night.

Jean-Marc Gely, marketing director for Printemps, said the bomb there was in a sack that was left on a counter. When an employee picked up the sack and found it quite heavy, she notified store security guards, who cleared most of the people from the area before the explosion.

Police said sand was found in the debris-littered bomb sites, prompting speculation that the sand had been placed in the explosives in an attempt to lessen the injury toll from the blasts.

Hours later, crowds were still gathered and the stores were closed with police cordons blocking off streets around them.

Police noted that several groups besides the Palestine Liberation Front had claimed responsibility in Saturday’s bombings. However, these others were not named, and officers expressed reluctance to take these claims seriously.

Over the last few years, the city of Paris has been the scene of many bombings, several of them with major loss of life and injury. The bombers have included the far-left terrorist group Direct Action, Armenian guerrilla attacks on Turkish Airlines, and several bombings against Jewish and Israeli interests.

Attack at Jo Goldenberg’s

In the worst such anti-Jewish attack, in August, 1982, three gunmen threw a grenade and sprayed machine-gun fire into Jo Goldenberg’s, a restaurant in the Jewish quarter, killing six people and wounding 22.

The Palestine Liberation Front is one of the guerrilla groups in the Palestine Liberation Organization, and the front’s main faction, led by Abul Abbas, was blamed for the Oct. 7-9 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. A 69-year-old New Yorker, Leon Klinghoffer, was killed during the hijacking.

Ibrahim Souss, the PLO’s representative in Paris, condemned “with the strongest vigor” the bombings. He noted that PLO chief Yasser Arafat said recently in Cairo that his group opposes such attacks and would limit its activities to Israeli-occupied Arab territories.