Members of a bomb disposal unit and their sniffer dog tour a Paris department store after a bomb alert, Tuesday Dec. 16, 2008, in Paris. Police neutralized explosives discovered Tuesday in the prestigious Paris department store, and France's national news agency said it received a claim of responsibility from an Afghan group. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PARIS (AP) -- Police acting on a warning Tuesday found a bundle of dynamite inside a Paris department store at the height of the Christmas season, and a group demanding that France withdraw from Afghanistan claimed responsibility.
Sticks of dynamite tied together but without a detonator were found in the Printemps department store, a favored shopping destination for tourists, and a Christmas season attraction because of its festive window displays.
Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the explosives appeared "relatively old." Police said they were found in the third floor restroom of the menswear department. Five sticks were found together, officials said.
"There was no risk of explosion," the minister said.
French news agency Agence France-Presse said it received a letter Tuesday morning from a group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front saying that several bombs had been planted in the store. Police said they searched the store and found the dynamite because of the warning.
Alliot-Marie said the group was "totally unknown" to police but that the claim was being studied.
In the letter, the group demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan before the end of February, and threatened attacks if France refuses.
"Otherwise we will go back into action in your big capitalist stores and this time without warning you," the letter said, according to AFP.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has increased France's troop levels in Afghanistan, quickly stressed that he would not bend to terrorism. France has 2,800 troops in Afghanistan.
"We need to be vigilant about terrorism. That is the only right policy. We have to be firm. We cannot compromise with terrorists," Sarkozy said.
Officers cordoned off streets around the building. Anti-crime brigades and bomb squads were called in.
Store employees and customers left the building.
"It's worrying, but there's no reason to panic," said Evelyne Bredy, a sportswear saleswoman who works on the third floor, where the explosives were found. She and a shivering colleague waited outside the store while police with sniffer dogs worked inside.
"We're used to it. It happens," she said. "There are often suspicious packages - though maybe not this type of evacuation."
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