France is once again on high alert after 13 people were injured when a suspected ‘suitcase bomber’ dumped a package outside a bakery in Lyon, France’s third largest city.
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the bombing has sparked a terrorism probe with police forces across the country instructed to increase security in public places and event venues.
He said anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation immediately and police said they were treating the blast as an attempted homicide.
The suspected bomber was captured on security video wheeling a bicycle and leaving a bag in front of the Brioche Doree bakery shortly before an explosion occurred about 5.30pm local time on Friday, police sources and local mayor Denis Broliquier said.
Mayor Broliquier arrived minutes later, seeing “a refrigerated cooler in the Brioche Doree [bakery], whose windows had been shattered”.
“It was the windows … that superficially injured the people who were 1, 2 or 3 metres away,” he said.
Media are reporting the device was reportedly full of screws, nuts and bolts and exploded on the street in the historic city centre, between the Saone and Rhone rivers.
President Emmanuel Macron characterised the incident as an “attack” when the news broke during a live YouTube interview ahead of Sunday’s European elections.
“My thoughts are with the injured,” he said.
Most of those hurt were hospitalised for minor leg injuries.
He later tweeted: “Tonight I think of the wounded in the explosion in Lyon, their families affected by the violence that has befallen their loved ones in the street, and all of Lyon. We are by your side.”
Police sources described the suspected attacker as a European or North African male, seen wearing beige Bermuda shorts, an army-green scarf or head wrap and dark glasses.
Soon after he left, the blast rained metal bolts on passers-by in front of the premises on rue Victor Hugo, several blocks from the city’s main station, according to police.
— Léo (@ldebxl) May 24, 2019
“There was an explosion and I thought it was a car crash,” witness Eva, a 17-year-old student who was about 15 metres from the site of the blast, told France 24.
“There were bits of electric wire near me, and batteries and bits of cardboard and plastic. The windows were blown out,” he said.
Jihadist gun and bomb attacks have reportedly killed more than 250 people in France since 2015, the BBC reports, and the country remains on high alert with regular military patrols in cities like Lyon.