Hunt on for 'dangerous' suspect after Lyon attack

Emergency workers attending to a woman after a suspected package bomb blast in the heart of Lyon, south-east France, on Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Emergency workers attending to a woman after a suspected package bomb blast in the heart of Lyon, south-east France, on Friday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Blast injures 13 ahead of elections for European Parliament today

LYON • Police in France were yesterday hunting a suspect following a blast in a pedestrian street in the heart of Lyon that wounded 13 people, including a child, two days ahead of hotly contested European Parliament elections.

President Emmanuel Macron called the Friday evening explosion, from a package believed to have been packed with shrapnel, an "attack" and sent Interior Minister Christophe Castaner to Lyon.

Police issued an appeal for witnesses on Twitter as they sought the suspect, said to be in his early 30s, who was seen on security cameras riding a mountain bicycle immediately before the explosion.

An image of the man, wearing sunglasses, a cap, light-coloured shorts and a dark top, was posted. He was described as "dangerous".

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told BFM TV it was too soon to say whether the blast was a "terrorist act".

The case was nonetheless handed to the Paris prosecutor for anti-terrorism, which deals with all terror cases. No claim of responsibility has so far been made for the attack, French anti-terrorism prosecutor Remy Heitz said yesterday.

Three of the 13 people hurt were still in hospital receiving treatment, Lyon's mayor said.

Mr Gerard Collomb told BFM TV that only one of the three still in hospital had sustained serious injuries in the blast, adding that the "painful" incident "could have been worse".

A police source said the package contained "screws or bolts". It had been placed in front of a bakery near a busy corner of two crowded streets in the late afternoon.

"I was working, serving customers, and all of a sudden there was a huge boom," said Mr Omar Ghezza, a baker who works nearby.

"We thought it had something to do with renovation work. But in fact, it was an abandoned package."

District mayor Denis Broliquier said "the charge was too small to kill", while an administrative source said it was a "relatively weak explosive charge" that was triggered at a distance.

The blast occurred on a narrow strip of land between the Saone and Rhone rivers in the historic centre of the south-eastern city.

"It's an area in the very centre of Lyon, a major street," the city's deputy mayor in charge of security, Mr Jean-Yves Secheresse, told BFM TV. These areas are highly secured, with police always present, he said, adding that there are also patrols by soldiers deployed in a long-running anti-terror operation.

The area was evacuated and cordoned off by police after the attack.

The blast upended last-minute campaigning ahead of France's European Parliament vote today, with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe cancelling his appearance at his centrist party's final election rally on Friday night.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 26, 2019, with the headline 'Hunt on for 'dangerous' suspect after Lyon attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe