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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
French blast 'may have terrorist link'
Ruins of the factory in Toulouse
The blast had been blamed on an accident
The massive blast at a chemicals factory in the southern French city of Toulouse may have had a terrorist link, a government minister has said.

Environment Minister Yves Cochet said that no theories had been ruled out, contradicting the Toulouse prosecutor who last week said he was 99% sure that the explosion was an accident.

"We received new information today which shows that it could be of terrorist origin, but we are not ruling out any possibility," Mr Cochet told French television.

The explosion on 21 September left 29 people dead and 2,500 injured.

'Sacrificial dress'

Media speculation that the blast may have been a terrorist attack has been fuelled by investigations into a Tunisian-born victim of the explosion.

Hassan Jandoubi, 35, was found dead at the scene, clothed in five layers of underclothes which - some reports have said - could indicate that he had dressed himself for sacrifice.

demonstrators in Toulouse
Local residents are angered by the devastation and the redundancies
Jandoubi had been taken on at the AZF factory shortly before the explosion and had come into conflict with other employees who had displayed US flags as a sign of solidarity with victims of the 11 September attacks.

Jandoubi had come to the attention of the intelligence services several months earlier and was known for attending mosques thought to be part of a fundamentalist network.

Investigators say they have searched his flat but found it completely cleared out.

Local anger

The explosion completely destroyed the plant which produced chemicals for the TotalFinaElf giant.

It also damaged 10,000 homes and 50 schools are still unable to open. Several hundred people remain in hospital with burns.

The blast has caused widespread anger in the city where 7,000 people have been made temporarily redundant.

At the weekend more than 15,000 people demonstrated, demanding that potentially hazardous factories be relocated away from residential areas.

See also:

22 Sep 01 | Europe
Anger at Toulouse blast location
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