France tightened security around its embassies Friday after a bomb outside the Indonesian Embassy slightly injured nine people in a predawn explosion that shattered neighborhood windows and puzzled police.
It was the first such bombing in nearly a decade in Paris and the first known attack since 1975 on Indonesian interests outside that country — the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said a “bomb of medium strength” exploded outside the embassy in Paris’ exclusive 16th district, not far from the Eiffel Tower.
The 5 a.m. blast ripped chunks of stone facade from an embassy wall, damaged cars and left a small crater in front of the building. Shattered glass carpeted the street for at least 30 yards.
The injured were all hit by flying glass inside their homes. Three of the injured lived in the basement of the embassy, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said in Jakarta.
“I had the impression that I was being hurled from my apartment,” said Annie Mayret. Windows from her residence were blown out by the force of the blast, which set off burglar alarms in the area. She was not hurt.
Security stepped up
Security at diplomatic missions and other sensitive sites in the French capital was being stepped up, the Interior Ministry said. Streets leading to the Indonesian Embassy were blocked.
Investigators were treating with deep skepticism an e-mailed claim of responsibility from unknown senders who called themselves the Armed French Islamic Front, judicial officials said.
The e-mail demanded the release of Boualem Bensaid and Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, Islamic militants serving life sentences for bombings in Paris in 1995, judicial officials said. The senders also said they would maintain a cease-fire until Jan. 30, 2005.
Bomb specialists said the explosive was likely a homemade device. France-Info radio reported that the bomb weighed nine to 11 pounds and was contained in a metal box placed inside a knapsack.
Villepin noted the overnight bombings in Egypt but was careful not to link the attacks.
President Jacques Chirac, speaking from Vietnam where he was attending the Asia-Europe summit, said every means would be used to track down those responsible.
“It would appear to be a criminal act aimed at harming Indonesia’s interests and representatives in France,” he said.
The last major terrorist attacks in the French capital occurred when Paris was hit by a wave of deadly subway bombings in 1995 and 1996 — mainly the work of Algerian Islamic radicals. In 1997, a small bomb went off outside a Paris mosque, slightly injuring one person.
Friday’s blast came four days before the second anniversary of the terror bombing at nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, blamed on the al-Qaida-allied Jemaah Islamiyah group. The attack killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
On Sept. 9, Jemaah Islamiyah suicide bombers detonated a car bomb outside Australia’s Embassy in Indonesia, killing nine people.
Indonesia has jailed more than 150 Muslim militants over the past two years. It is a vocal critic of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The country is also battling the separatist rebel Free Aceh Movement, blamed for several small bombings in recent years. The group, fighting for independence for Aceh province, maintains a government in exile in Sweden.