Evidence increasingly points to Algerian militants as the ones behind a deadly subway blast in Paris, a prosecutor said Thursday, as investigators identified bits of what may have been the bomb.
Meanwhile, police responded to at least 41 bomb scares - all unfounded - and detained hundreds of people in a nationwide manhunt, two days after the bombing that took seven lives and injured more than 80.
The Louvre museum was evacuated for the second day in a row following a crank phone call, forcing 1,500 visitors onto the street. Another telephoned bomb threat briefly disrupted traffic at Roissy Airport, and two Paris train stations - Lyon and Montparnasse - were evacuated after abandoned packages were reported. But most tourist areas and subways still bustled.
RTL radio, citing a police report, said a police assistant reported seeing two men he described as North African hurriedly leave a large bag inside the train one station before the bomb blast.
RTL said the police assistant heard one of the men say: “There’s going to be a party tonight at Saint-Michel.”
A lead investigator said he could not confirm the report, but told The Associated Press the evidence so far points to Muslim militants in Algeria.
“From all I hear and see, I think the fundamentalist lead is advancing more than the others,” said prosecutor Francis Battut. “It would be the Armed Islamic Group.”
The extremist network has targeted officials, foreigners and other civilians in Algeria in its battle to topple the military-backed government in the former French colony and establish an Islamic state.
Paris maintains strong ties with the Algiers government, angering the militants. The Algerian newspaper La Tribune reported on July 17 that the Armed Islamic Group had threatened to carry out “bomb attacks in Paris to punish the French government,” according to Paris’ Le Monde newspaper.
The group also has been linked to the hijacking of an Air France jetliner in December. Police roundups before the bombing have indicated the militants were operating in Europe and have been suspected in the assassination of a moderate Algerian cleric in Paris on July 11.
Authorities said they had received no credible claims of responsibility for the blast in the Latin Quarter of central Paris.