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Unknown blackmailers target French railways
Reuters ^ | March 3, 2004

Posted on 03/03/2004 6:25:13 AM PST by demlosers

PARIS (Reuters) - An unknown group is threatening to bomb several sections of France's SNCF state railway if it is not paid about four million euros (2.6 million pounds), officials say.

The group, which calls itself AZF after a chemical factory in southwestern France that exploded in 2001, has already directed police to one sophisticated timebomb under tracks near Limoges between Paris and Toulouse to prove its technical prowess, they said.

French radio and television stations reported the threats on Wednesday morning despite an appeal from the Interior Ministry on Tuesday evening for discretion to allow it to continue its contacts with the shadowy group.

"I do not think this is a group linked to Islamic radicalism," Michel Gaudin, director general of the national police, told LCI television.

Noting some reports had mentioned a possible Chechen link, he added: "That is not our working hypothesis at the moment."

"These supposed terrorists are asking us to hand over a sum of money, around four million euros," Gaudin said. "We have discovered a bomb that could be dangerous."

Europe 1 radio said the group described itself as "secular terrorists" but police thought they were criminals trying to blackmail SNCF.

Gaudin said police had not thought it necessary to take any special security measures on trains until now but did not say if they would now propose them.

"I hope the fact this news has come out will not hinder our work trying to maintain this difficult contact with the group," he said.

According to LCI, the group sent its first letter in mid-December to President Jacques Chirac and the Interior Ministry. Two more followed in January and February.

On February 21, acting on a tip the group had given, police found a timebomb -- equipped with a sophisticated detonator but not primed to explode -- buried under the tracks near Limoges in southwestern France.

The group said it had hidden similar bombs under seven or eight other spots in the SNCF network which would go off if the money they demanded was not handed over, LCI said.

Gaudin said that Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France's top anti-terrorism judge, had been put in charge of a judicial prove into the case with another investigating magistrate.

In its note to news organisations on Tuesday evening, the Interior Ministry said: "It would be preferable that no news is published before this affair is over."

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News
KEYWORDS: azf; france

1 posted on 03/03/2004 6:25:13 AM PST by demlosers
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To: demlosers
Did I hear that they have attempted to pay this money, but could not find the drop point?

I turned the sound up when I saw the railway on tv, and I thought that's what they were saying.
2 posted on 03/03/2004 7:28:54 AM PST by texasflower (in the event of the rapture.......the Bush White House will be unmanned)
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To: texasflower
They have surrendered !! The Canadians and UN on the way to help.
3 posted on 03/03/2004 5:54:05 PM PST by Iberian
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To: Iberian
Oh my goodness! I hadn't even thought of it as a surrender. How funny!
4 posted on 03/03/2004 5:57:04 PM PST by texasflower (in the event of the rapture.......the Bush White House will be unmanned)
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To: demlosers
Details from Wash Post:
5 posted on 03/03/2004 8:15:40 PM PST by aculeus
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