French Police Hunt Suitcase Bomber After Blast in Lyon

By Reuters

LYON—French police were hunting a suspected suitcase bomber on Friday after an explosion in the central city of Lyon that injured 13 people, officials said.

The suspect was captured on security video leaving a bag in front of a bakery shortly before an explosion occurred at around 5:30 pm, police sources and local mayor Denis Broliquier said.

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Medics are seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France, on May 24, 2019. (Emmanuel Foudrot/Reuters)

Two news TV stations, BFMTV and CNews, showed a blurry image of a man on a bicycle that they said was the suspect.

Broliquier, the district mayor, told BFMTV he arrived minutes after the 5:30 p.m. explosion at the bakery chain Brioche Doree in Lyon’s central Presqu’ile area, which lies between the Rhone and Saone rivers that run through France’s third-largest city.

“What I saw was a refrigerated cooler in the Brioche Doree, whose windows had been shattered. It was the windows … that superficially injured the people who were 1, 2 or 3 meters (yards) away,” Broliquier said.

“But the fridge itself wasn’t that damaged, which means the device had low force,” Broliquier said, downplaying the incident. “It’s not the apocalypse … There’s no danger. There’s no risk.”

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Emergency workers stretcher a woman to a waiting ambulance in Lyon on May 24, 2019. (Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images)

Most of those hurt were hospitalized for treatment to leg injuries that were described as light.

President Emmanuel Macron characterized 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.

Paris anti-terrorism prosecutors opened an investigation as police said they were treating the blast as an attempted homicide, and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner headed to the scene.

The partially masked suspect appeared in security camera footage wheeling a bicycle to the scene, before leaving a bag outside a branch of Brioche Doree, a popular bakery chain.

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 passersby in front of the premises on rue Victor Hugo, several blocks from the city’s main station, according to police.

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Soldiers of French anti terrorist plan “Vigipirate Mission”, secure the area near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France, on May, 24, 2019. (Sebastien Erome/AP Photo)

Police forces across France have been instructed to increase security in public places and event venues, Castaner said.

The mayor and Macron sent their sympathies to the injured, some of whom were taken to the hospital and others just went home.

Resident Jean-Pierre, who lives above the bakery and didn’t give his last name, told BFMTV the noise from the explosion was “deafening” but it didn’t cause the walls to shake. He said a window shattered and there was some debris on the street.

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A vehicle of French anti terrorist plan “Vigipirate Mission”, is seen near the site of a suspected bomb attack in central Lyon, France, on May, 24, 2019. (Sebastien Erome/AP Photo)

Some victims sustained leg injuries and no wounds were life-threatening, Kamel Amerouche, the regional authority’s communications chief, told The Associated Press.

By Catherine Lagrange, Emmanuel Jarry, and Marine Pennetier

The Associated Press contributed to this report.