Police Identifiy Tati Store Bombers
PARIS (AP) _ Witnesses identified two purported members of a Lebanese extremist group as the men believed to have bombed a discount clothing store in the latest terrorist attack here, a judicial source said Thursday.
In Beirut, Lebanon, a group calling itself the Partisans for Justice and Freedom claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s bombing that killed five people and wounded 52 at a discount clothing store.
Premier Jacques Chirac said France’s response to the series of bombings, which have killed eight people and wounded more than 150, would be ″crushing and without weakness.″
″We will do everything - and I mean everything - to punish without pity the assassins and those who manipulate them,″ he said in a three-minute address on national television.
″The assassins, I assure you, will not escape us,″ Chirac vowed. ″We will wage this fight to the end, with the help of all and with respect for the fundamental rules of our democracy.″
Still, the violence has terrified Parisians, causing many to change their daily routines.
″I’m just terrified by the situation,″ said Michele Voge, a saleswoman at a fur store in a mall off Champs Elysees. ″There is nobody in the shopping center. I come here because I have to. Everybody who can stays home.″
The wave of terrorism against France also has struck in Lebanon, where the French military attache was shot to death Thursday and French peacekeeping troops were under renewed assault.
The judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said witnesses to the Wednesday attack on the Tati store in the Montparnasse district identified Emile Ibrahim Abdallah and Salim el-Khoury from among 130 police photographs as the men who tossed a bomb from a black BMW car.
But later Thursday, a French journalist who says he knows Emile Abdallah claimed to have interviewed him in northern Lebanon. His report did not specifically say Abdallah denied he was in Paris on Wednesday.
The statement from the Partisans for Justice and Freedom said: ″France will rest only when it responds to our interests. Otherwise, it will only witness further destruction and bloodletting.″ The typed Arabic-language statement delivered to Western news agencies and Beirut newspapers.
Besides the Partisans for Justice and Freedom, another group calling itself the Committee for Solidarity with Arab and Middle East Political Prisoners, has said it was behind the other Paris attacks.
The second group has demanded the release from French prison of Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, who is serving a four-year prison term for possession of arms and false papers. He also is charged with complicity in the murders of an American and an Israeli diplomat in Paris.
Emile Abdallah is the brother of Georges, thought by French authorities be be the leader of the extremist Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions. Khoury, 31, the subject of an international arrest warrant issued by French police, is wanted in connection with the 1985 kidnapping of the director of the French cultural center in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. The kidnapped Frenchman was released.
The two suspects in Wednesday’s bombing were believed to be members of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, the judicial source said.
Three people were killed and more than 100 injured in the four previous bombings. The attacks started Sept. 8 when a bomb exploded at the post office in City Hall, followed by bombs at a cafeteria in suburban La Defense, the Pub Renault on the Champs Elysees Avenue and police headquarters in central Paris.
Parisians on Thursday spoke of little other than the wave of bombings.
″People are afraid,″ said wine salesman Bruno Lehegarat. ″They are afraid of immigrants and they are becoming racist. The French are frightened and have had enough of immigrants.″
Marilyn Barbut, who works in an electronics store, also said many people were frightened. ″It has become automatic to watch for packages, on the Metro and everywhere. Attack after attack, almost every day. It is getting really serious.″
Jittery Parisians are avoiding cinemas and big department stores, and many are abandoning public transportation in favor of personal cars, further clogging the already congested streets.
Police have said witnesses identified Robert Ibrahim Abdallah, another brother of Georges, as the prime suspect in the bombing last Friday of the La Defense cafeteria.
Robert and his brother Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah gave a news conference in Tripoli, Lebanon, on Wednesday to deny involvement in the Paris attacks.
While police believe the Committee of Solidarity is an outgrowth of Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, government officials feel the attacks may have a broader base.
Denis Baudouin, spokesman for the premier, said several groups probably were involved.
Chirac, while vowing to take action, did not say how the French might respond. France already has deployed troops to aid frontier police and imposed visa requirements on all visitors except those from the European Common Market and Switzerland.
In Lebanon, France has been singled out as a target in several recent attacks.
On Thursday, a gunman killed Col. Christian Goutierre, 54, the French military attache in Beirut.
Four French soldiers serving in the U.N. peacekeeping force in south Lebanon have been killed and 28 wounded the past five weeks.