Afghan militants plant dynamite in the 'Harrods' of Paris and tell France: 'Get your troops out of our country by February'
Terrorists brought panic to the heart of Paris this morning after dynamite was discovered in one of the city's most famous department stores.
Thousands of shoppers and staff were evacuated from Printemps, the French equivalent of Harrods, following a warning from a previously unknown group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front.
They had threatened to bring 'death and destruction' unless French troops leave Afghanistan.
The explosives were found in the washrooms of the menswear department shortly after the store was opened today.
Anti-crime brigades and de-mining teams were called in, and the store evacuated and cordoned off to prevent any harm to shoppers crowding the busy streets less than two weeks before Christmas.
British shoppers were among those caught up in the drama.
Nina Bradshaw, of North London, said: 'It was absolute chaos. We were told to get out immediately, and didn't hang about.
'Traffic was brought to a standstill outside and nobody seemed to know what to do. Then police cordoned the whole area off.'
The sticks of dynamite tied together without a detonator. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the explosives appeared 'relatively old'.
'There was no risk of explosion,' the minister said.
French news agency Agence France-Presse said it received a letter on Tuesday morning saying that several bombs had been planted in the store.
Police said they searched the store and found the dynamite because of the warning.
Alliot-Marie said the Afghan Revolutionary Front was 'totally unknown' to police but that the claim was being studied.
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In the letter, the group demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan before the end of February, and threatened attacks if France refuses.
'Otherwise we will go back into action in your big capitalist stores and this time without warning you,' the letter said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has increased France's troop levels in Afghanistan, quickly stressed that he would not bend to terrorism. France has 2,800 troops in Afghanistan.
'We need to be vigilant about terrorism. That is the only right policy. We have to be firm. We cannot compromise with terrorists,' Sarkozy said.
Officers cordoned off streets around the building. Anti-crime brigades and bomb squads were called in.
Store employees and customers left the building.
'It's worrying, but there's no reason to panic,' said Evelyne Bredy, a sportswear saleswoman who works on the third floor, where the explosives were found.
She and a shivering colleague waited outside the store while police with sniffer dogs worked inside.
'We're used to it. It happens,' she said. 'There are often suspicious
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