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PARIS — A package containing what was thought to be dynamite was found Tuesday morning in the Printemps department store, forcing a temporary evacuation of the landmark destination on the Boulevard Hausmann at the height of the holiday shopping season.
The store reopened around 2 p.m. Paris time.
A tip-off letter about the package was sent to the French news agency AFP by a group called the Afghan Revolutionary Front, which is demanding the withdrawal of French troops in Afghanistan, a spokesman at the Paris prosecutors’ office said. It is understood police did not previously know the group.
French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the explosives were “relatively old” and had been hidden in the men’s washrooms on the third floor.
Police cordoned off streets around the building. Anticrime brigades and bomb squads were called in, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Pierre Pelarrey, the store’s manger, said at a news conference the flagship remained closed for about an hour as police secured the explosives.
Pelarrey said the package did not have a detonator and that the situation was handled smoothly. Neighboring Galeries Lafayette remained open throughout the incident.
Pelarrey said security was already tight at the store although he added that it would be increased. He declined to say whether shoppers’ bags would be searched at the entrance of the store.
“The department stores [on the Boulevard Haussmann] are already among the most secure locations in all Paris,” said Pelarrey.
Most shoppers said the scare would not deter them from shopping.
“It doesn’t scare me, I have no anxiety at all,” said Gerard Dupont, who continued his journey to the department store on foot after the bus he was on became snarled in traffic.
Michelle Broy, who had come to the store to do some Christmas shopping, expressed stoicism. “It’s the kind of thing that happens all of the time. I can remember being turned out of the opera a few years ago as there was a terrorist threat,” she said.
But the scare is certain not to be good for business in what has already proved to be a difficult holiday retail season.
Pelarrey said holiday sales started slow in late November and early December but that they picked up last weekend.