Sparkling holiday lights over the heads of throngs of shoppers on Boulevard Hausmann, Paris.
Visitors to one of Paris's premiere department stores received quite a shock today. Explosives sans detonators were planted in washrooms on several floors at Printemps on Boulevard Hausmann. French police say all explosives were found and made safe. Printemps, which was packed with holiday shoppers, was evacuated and traffic directed away from the area.
Agence France Presse received a letter signed by a group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front, warning of "several bombs" placed in the store.
At a news conference in the European Parliament, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged caution in reacting to the incident. "All we can do is to be prudent and moderate," Sarkozy said. "My belief has not changed since 2002 that vigilance in the face of terrorism is the only possible line to take."
The BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris said the incident is a warning and reminder that the French people are not immune to the scourge of terrorism, despite there being no significant attack on French soil for more than ten years.
Police said the explosives - sticks of dynamite tied together with cord - were first located by sniffer dogs."Based on what we know, it was not a device that was set to explode. We are going to carry out an investigation to find the perpetrators," AFP quoted Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie at the scene.
The Afghan Revolutionary Front's letter reportedly said "If you do not send someone to intervene before Wednesday December 17, they will explode. Send the message to your president that he must withdraw his troops from our country before the end of February 2009 or else we will take action in your capitalist department stores and this time, without warning."
France has about 2,600 troops serving with NATO in Afghanistan, after reinforcements were sent earlier this year. Ten French troops died and 21 more were injured in August in an ambush east of Kabul. In a video broadcast last November, a Taleban military leader warned that "our reaction will be heard in Paris" if French troops are not withdrawn.