PARIS — Two men in a passing car threw a bomb at a crowded discount clothing and textile store in Paris on Wednesday, setting off an explosion that killed five people and injured more than 60.
The explosion, the fifth bombing in the last 10 days and the most deadly so far, blasted the Tati store on the Rue de Rennes, in the busy Montparnasse quarter on the Left Bank of the Seine. Because Paris schools are closed on Wednesdays, the store was crowded with parents and their children.
"The sight was unbearable," said a reporter for the magazine Le Point, which has offices in the same building. "There were many women, many children, with blood all over."
Lifted Several Yards
One woman passer-by was blown apart by the blast, and a witness said another victim was lifted several yards in the air.
Informed of the latest explosion, Premier Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of his top security officials.
The bombing came a few hours after French officials, in a dramatic act unseen in Paris since the days of the Nazi occupation in World War II, started putting up the first of 200,000 posters offering a 1-million-franc ($150,000) reward for information leading to the arrest of the terrorists.
The posters pictured two Lebanese men who were accused of taking part in the bombing campaign in order to blackmail France into releasing their older brother from jail here.
But two men who identified themselves as the men on the wanted posters--Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah, 23, and Robert Ibrahim Abdallah, 20--held a news conference in Tripoli, Lebanon, and denied that they had anything to do with the bombings. They said they had not been in France in two years and offered to turn themselves over to French authorities for questioning.
In a Black BMW
In Paris, Laurent Davenas, an official investigator, said the bomb was thrown from a car driven past the store. He said that two men with mustaches were in the car, a black BMW. Police began a hunt for the car.
Witnesses said the powerful explosion destroyed the ground floor and shook the rest of the six-story building, shattering all its windows. The sidewalk in front of the store was covered with glass, debris and bleeding victims, many crying for help. Police cleared a nearby plaza and used it as a helicopter launching pad to evacuate those with the gravest injuries.
11 Seriously Injured
Police said 5 were dead, 11 seriously injured, and the rest, about 50 people, injured less seriously.
In all, since the terrorist campaign began nine months ago, the bombs have killed 10 people and injured almost 300. In the last 10 days, the terrorists have attacked a post office at the Paris City Hall, a cafeteria in a shopping center, a restaurant on the Champs Elysees and the drivers license bureau in Paris police headquarters.
Two organizations have claimed responsibility for the bombings, demanding the release of three prisoners convicted or charged with terrorist crimes. The police believe, however, that their main goal is the release of one of the prisoners, the older brother of the two men on the poster--Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, 35, who is believed to head an organization known as the Lebanese Revolutionary Armed Factions. The group has boasted of killing an American military attache and an Israeli diplomat four years ago.
Aimed at Humiliation
In Lebanon, the press conference by the Abdallah brothers was clearly aimed at humiliating the French government. "We haven't done anything," Maurice Ibrahim Abdallah said. "We will turn ourselves in to the French or Lebanese judicial authorities if a charge is brought against us."
He said he left France two years ago when he had financial problems. "I could not pay my tuition," he said.
The two brothers also made public a letter in which they asked Lebanese Premier Rashid Karami to prevent French authorities "from threatening and recruiting mercenaries to kill us."
Earlier in Paris, government sources said witnesses had identified Robert Ibrahim Abdallah as the young man who left a bomb under a table at a cafeteria in La Defense shopping center last Friday. That explosion injured 41 people.
Also, the Ministry of Interior had announced what it described as the first fruits of its poster campaign. Tips from people responding to the posters, a ministry spokesman said, have helped police to uncover a hideaway with 90 pounds of explosives, 10 grenades and more than 80 detonators. The ministry gave no further details.
Threat at Louvre
Even before the latest bombing, the anxiety of Paris was dramatized when officials of the Louvre art museum received a bomb threat during the morning and decided not to open for the rest of the day. A museum spokesman said she did not know when it would reopen.