In a July 2002 article decrying the consistent pattern of government authorities to pretend that terrorism is not terrorism, I gave this example from France:
Hassan Jandoubi, an Islamist with possible connections to al Qaeda, had started working at the AZF fertilizer factory in suburban Toulouse, France, just days before a massive explosion took place there last Sept. 21. This, the worst catastrophe ever in a French chemical plant, killed Jandoubi and 29 others, injured 2,000, destroyed 600 dwellings, and damaged 10,000 buildings.
The autopsy revealed that Jandoubi was wearing two pairs of trousers and four pairs of underpants, which the coroner compared to what is worn by "Islamic militants going into battle or on suicide missions." Also, the chemical plant was processing ammonium nitrate, a stable chemical that requires a substantial infusion of energy to explode.
Ignoring these signs, the French authorities declared there was "no shred of evidence" of the explosion being a terrorist act and ruled it an accident. They even prosecuted two publications merely for calling Jandoubi a "radical Islamist," making them pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines to Jandoubi's heirs, a mosque and a Muslim organization for their "defamation" of Jandoubi.
Well, someone clearly agrees with me, for the story broke two days ago that a mysterious group known only by the initials "AZF" has threatened to blow up railroad lines across France, leading to considerable disruption. Oh, and Reuters reports today that the French government "has ruled out any involvement by radical Islamic groups." The government knows way more than I do about the specifics of this case, but I just wonder if it is not again fooling itself. (March 5, 2004)
Apr. 19, 2006 update: A railway worker making a regular inspection of the high-speed Paris-Nantes line near the village of Saint-Sylvain-d'Anjou found a bomb with a timing system, sparking an investigation by anti-terrorist police. The state prosecutor's office said that the plastic tube containing nitrate fuel and wired to a timer with a battery appears home made. But had it gone off, "it could have damaged the track and caused a derailment." The bomb could have been placed at any time in the past 10 days. No person or group has claimed responsibility for it or made demands.
July 19, 2013 update: Two train accidents on July 12 in which fishplates (connectors between train tracks) were loosened or removed have prompted SNCF, the French state-owned rail company, to lodge a legal complaint, prompting the police to open an inquiry. One took place at the Brétigny-sur-Orge station south of Paris, leading to six deaths. The other was an apparent act of sabotage that derailed a train transporting nuclear waste and caused it to continue off-track for 100 meters near Bessines-sur-Gartempe, in central France on a stretch of track used exclusive by a company, Areva, to transport nuclear waste.