PARIS -- Terrorists struck the French capital yesterday for the fifth time in 10 days, demolishing a clothing store with a bomb thrown from a car. Five people were killed and 58 injured, authorities said.
Three people were killed and more than 100 injured in the previous bombings, which prompted the government to adopt tough anti-terrorist measures. Two groups seeking to free three imprisoned Middle Easterners have issued conflicting claims of responsibility for those attacks.
One woman passer-by was blown apart by Wednesday' blast in central Paris, and a witness said another victim was lifted several yards into the air. "It is an incredible sight, many women, children, blood everywhere," said a witness who refused to give his name.
The bomb was tossed from a black BMW carrying two mustachioed men, one of whom rolled down the window and tossed the bomb at the Tati clothing and textile store in the Montparnasse district, said Laurent Davenas, an assistant state prosecutor.
Windows were blown out at several businesses. The sidewalk in front of the Tati store was covered with glass, debris and bleeding victims, many crying out for help. Police cleared a plaza, the Place du 18 Juin, and used it as a helicopter landing pad to evacuate those with the gravest injuries.
A spokesman for the public hospital authority said 19 of those injured in the 5:25 p.m. bombing were in serious condition.
"The most seriously wounded were treated on the sidewalk in front of Tati," said one witness. "I saw people dying."
"It was horrible," said another witness. "A young woman, her legs cut, had half of her face torn off. All you could see was bleeding bodies."
Premier Jacques Chirac called an emergency meeting of his top security ministers immediately after the attack.
The attack was the bloodiest since the recent wave of bombings began Sept. 8. Earlier explosions hit a city hall post office, a cafeteria in suburban La Defense, the Pub Renault on the Champs-Elysees Avenue and police headquarters in central Paris.
Groups calling themselves the Committee for Solidarity with Arab and Middle East Political Prisoners and the Partisans of Rights and Freedom have issued conflicting claims of responsibility for the earlier bombings and threatened new attacks unless Georges Ibrahim Abdallah and two other jailed Middle Easterners are freed.
In Beirut, an Arabic statement siged by the Committee for Soldiarity threatened to launch attacks in the United States.
The two-page statement, delivered Wednesday to the independent newspaper An-Nahar, said, "We shall meet soon in your great states. We shall get acquainted with great states, your cities, your skyscrapers, your Statue of Liberty."
French police said Wednesday that Abdallah's brother, Robert, was a prime suspect in the cafeteria bombing, and 200,000 posters were being distributed with his picture and that of another brother, Maurice. Authorities offered a reward of one million francs--$150,000--for information leading to their arrest.
The two brothers convened a news conference in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, denying involvement in the bombings and saying they had not been in France in two years. Their statement was made just before the Wednesday attack.
Georges, the suspected leader of a group called the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions, is serving a four-year prison term for possession of arms and false papers. He also is charged with complicity in the murders of an American and an Israeli diplomat in Paris.
Meanwhile, French police announced they discovered a cache of more than 88 pounds of explosives, 10 grenades, more than 80 detonators and a roll of detonation cord. The Interior Ministry said the discovery came as a result of public appeals for vigilance against terrorism, but it provided no other details.
In response to the bombings, France deployed troops to aid frontier police and imposed visa requirements on all visitors except those from selected European nations.