Despite the arrests of seven suspected extremists, French officials said the prime suspects in an investigation into explosives placed in a Paris department store are likely not Islamic militants.
There has been a stronger police presence on Paris streets since the bomb find
French Defense Minister Herve Morin said Wednesday, Dec. 17, that Islamist militants were not the prime suspects in a threat to blow up Parisian department stores.
Police were tipped off to a bundle of dynamite left in the Printemps store on Paris' Boulevard Haussmann on Tuesday.
The five sticks of dynamite were reportedly wrapped together but could not have exploded because they were not attached to a detonator.
A previously unknown group named the Afghan Revolutionary Front claimed responsibility for the act and threatened attacks in France in Paris does not pull its 2,600 troops out of Afghanistan.
Morin said a letter did not bear the hallmarks of Islamist extremism
Experts, however, questioned whether the warning, posted on Monday in Paris, could have come from an Islamic group such as the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, which have previously issues threats to France.
"It's obvious that the phraseology, the dialectic, is not the dialectic of Islamist terror movements," Morin said in an interview with RTL radio.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy also on Tuesday expressed caution about assuming Islamic extremists had planted the explosives.
Alleged extremists arrested
In a separate incident, seven suspected Islamic extremists with alleged links to Iraq were arrested on Tuesday. The suspects are not connected to explosives found in a Paris department store, police said.
French intelligence officers and anti-terrorist police first arrested a young Frenchman who had converted to Islam and was already known to intelligence authorities. Police then hauled in six people he associated with, sources told the AFP news agency.
The arrests were not linked to the discovery Tuesday of explosives in a Paris department store, nor were they connected to alleged al-Qaida-linked extremists detained last week in Belgium, the Associated Press reported, quoting a police official who would not give her name.
The last major attacks on French soil took place in 1995 and 1996, when eight people were killed and some 200 injured in a wave of strikes on the Paris metro and tourist sites by Algerian Islamists.