Police in Paris, France were kept busy yesterday when two bomb threats caused the evacuation of the Eiffel Tower and Saint-Michel subway station. Both locations were closed and people ushered away by police as bomb crews made extensive searches. No suspicious devices were found. While both bomb threats were phoned in, no group took responsibility for the threats. Many suspect that this was in response to yesterday’s vote by the French Senate to ban the use of Muslim burqa veils for women. Despite police warnings, many people stood by in the Champ de Mars in Paris to watch as the Eiffel Tower was searched by police.
Around 2,000 people were evacuated from the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most famous landmark in Paris. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions, with over 6.6 million visitors. Built in 1889, the iron tower is 1,063 feet tall, about the same as an 81 story building. Construction began in 1887 and it’s lattice structure consists of some 18,038 pieces all riveted together. With the advent of radio, and later television, additional antennas for communication were added during the 20th Century.
The Saint-Michel subway station is located near another major tourist attraction, Notre Dame Cathedral. After a thorough search by police, no suspicious devices were found there either. The station was the target in 1995 of a bombing which had killed eight people. On July 25, 1995, Algerian Islamic extremists detonated a large bomb which killed 8 and injured 150 people. Canisters of cooking gas, probably propane, were used, concealed inside garbage containers. Those devices were jacketed with nails for maximum effect.
While there is no direct connection between yesterday’s bomb threats and the vote to ban burqas, it would seem logical to assume that may have been the reason. The bomb threats were made with anonymous phone calls. The burqa ban by the French Senate was denounced earlier by Ayman al-Zawahri, the Number Two leader of al Qaeda.
Fortunately, police found no suspicious packages or devices at either the Eiffel Tower or the Saint-Michel subway station. While both the Eiffel Tower and subway station were evacuated due to the bomb threat, no injuries or panic resulted. Some 2,000 tourists were part of the evacuation of the Eiffel Tower during the bomb threat.