Two men in a passing car threw a bomb at a crowded discount clothing and textile store in Paris on Wednesday, setting off an explosion that killed five people and injured more than 60.
The explosion, the fifth bombing in the last 10 days and the most deadly so far, blasted the Tati store on the Rue de Rennes, in the busy Montparnasse quarter on the Left Bank of the Seine. Because Paris schools are closed on Wednesdays, the store was crowded with parents and their children.
"The sight was unbearable," said a reporter for the magazine Le Point, which has offices in the same building. "There were many women, many children, with blood all over."
Lifted Several Yards
One woman passer-by was blown apart by the blast, and a witness said another victim was lifted several yards in the air.
Informed of the latest explosion, Premier Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of his top security officials.
The bombing came a few hours after French officials, in a dramatic act unseen in Paris since the days of the Nazi occupation in World War II, started putting up the first of 200,000 posters offering a 1-million-franc ($150,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the terrorists.
The posters pictured two Lebanese men who were accused of taking part in the bombing campaign in order to blackmail France into releasing their older brother from jail here.
But two men who identified themselves as the men on the wanted posters--Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah, 23, and Robert Ibrahim Abdallah, 20--held a news conference in Tripoli, Lebanon, and denied that they had anything to do with the bombings. They said they had not been in France in two years and offered to turn themselves over to French authorities for questioning.
In a Black BMW
In Paris, Laurent Davenas, an official investigator, said the bomb was thrown from a car driven past the store. He said that two men with mustaches were in the car, a black BMW. Police began a hunt for the car.
Witnesses said the powerful explosion destroyed the ground floor and shook the rest of the six-story building, shattering all its windows. The sidewalk in front of the store was covered with glass, debris and bleeding victims, many crying for help. Police cleared a nearby plaza and used it as a helicopter launching pad to evacuate those with the gravest injuries.
11 Seriously Injured
Police said 5 were dead, 11 seriously injured, and the rest, about 50 people, injured less seriously.
In all, since the terrorist campaign began nine months ago, the bombs have killed 10 people and injured almost 300. In the last 10 days, the terrorists have attacked a post office at the Paris City Hall, a cafeteria in a shopping center, a restaurant on the Champs Elysees and the drivers license bureau in Paris police headquarters.
Two organizations have claimed responsibility for the bombings, demanding the release of three prisoners convicted or charged with terrorist crimes. The police believe, however, that their main goal is the release of one of the prisoners, the older brother of the two men on the poster--Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, 35, who is believed to head an organization known as the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Factions. The group has boasted of killing an American military attache and an Israeli diplomat four years ago.
Aimed at Humiliation
In Lebanon, the press conference by the Abdallah brothers was clearly aimed at humiliating the French government. "We haven't done anything," Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah said. "We will turn ourselves in to the French or Lebanese judicial authorities if a charge is brought against us."
He said he left France two years ago when he had financial problems. "I could not pay my tuition," he said.
The two brothers also made public a letter in which they asked Lebanese Premier Rashid Karami to prevent French authorities "from threatening and recruiting mercenaries to kill us."
Earlier in Paris, government sources said witnesses had identified Robert Ibrahim Abdallah as the young man who left a bomb under a table at a cafeteria in La Defense shopping center last Friday. That explosion injured 41 people.
Also, the Ministry of Interior had announced what it described as the first fruits of its poster campaign. Tips from people responding to the posters, a ministry spokesman said, have helped police to uncover a hideaway with 90 pounds of explosives, 10 grenades and more than 80 detonators. The ministry gave no further details.
Threat at Louvre
Even before the latest bombing, the anxiety of Paris was dramatized when officials of the Louvre art museum received a bomb threat during the morning and decided not to open for the rest of the day. A museum spokesman said she did not know when it would reopen.
The bombings have created a special anxiety for the many Arab and Middle Eastern immigrants in Paris. Not only do they share the danger of other Parisians exposed to terrorist bombings that kill and maim at random, but these immigrants have also attracted a good deal of suspicion and resentment.
Their mood was reflected Wednesday by a delegation of 100 prominent French Muslims, some of them immigrants and some descended from immigrants, who marched to the prison where Georges Ibrahim Abdallah is serving a four-year sentence and asked the warden to relay a letter to Abdallah demanding that he call off the bombings.
In their letter to Abdallah in prison, the French Muslims said, "We who have always condemned state terrorism made in Israel cannot close our eyes to acts that come from the same barbarity." The warden of the prison, in Fleury-Merogis, just outside Paris, said he will deliver the letter to Abdallah.
Several Raids Conducted
The police, in their hunt for suspects and leads, have conducted several raids in Middle Eastern neighborhoods, detaining several dozen immigrants. So far, officials have ordered the expulsion of 14 from France. There is an obvious fear in Arab communities that people of Middle Eastern descent will bear the brunt of French frustration and fury over the bombings.
The posters, about the size of a newspaper page, carry the pictures of Robert Ibrahim Abdallah and Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah and announce that the reward will be given for information leading to their arrest and to the arrest of anyone else responsible for the rash of bombings.
Even before the news conference in Lebanon, there were some misgivings about the posters in Paris. First, such posters had not been seen in Paris since the days when the Nazi occupiers posted pictures of French Resistance fighters. On top of this, some French police expressed doubt privately that such a theatrical gesture would accomplish much. But the Chirac government obviously hoped that the posters would demonstrate its determination and would boost the morale of Parisians.
Police tightened security around the Elysee Palace, the official residence of President Francois Mitterrand. The terrorists, in a note delivered in Beirut earlier this week, had said they intended to attack "the palace of King Mitterrand."
Traffic on the street that runs in front of the Elysee was squeezed into one lane during the day and forbidden completely at night. The president himself was not in Paris but on a state visit to Indonesia.
The French military attache was reportedf assassinated today in East Beirut. Page 13.