/ 11 November 2008

Eight arrested for French train sabotage

Eight members of an ultra-left anarchist group have been arrested in connection with a string of attacks on France’s rail network, French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie announced on Tuesday.

In a communiqué transmitted to Agence France-Presse, the minister congratulated police and gendarmes ”on their diligence, which enabled the eight people belonging to the far-left anarchist movement to be identified and arrested in connection with the sabotage of SNCF [state-run railways] overhead power cables in the past few days”.

She said the successful operation, carried out at several points in France, had been made possible thanks to months of investigation into the movement by France’s intelligence and anti-terrorist services.

Thousands of passengers suffered long delays or cancellations on TGV high-speed trains to London, Brussels and across France on Saturday after attackers jammed iron bars into overhead power cables at four points near Paris.

In a separate incident late on Sunday in the south-west of the country, a high-speed train rammed into a pair of concrete blocks placed on a line. No one was injured and the train was only slightly damaged.

Although not certain whether Sunday’s incident was connected, SNCF officials said Saturday’s attacks appeared to be part of a well-organised campaign.

Five out of six recent attacks on the rail network have involved iron bars being placed on overhead cables, SNCF chairperson Guillaume Pepy said.

Officials said the sophistication of the attacks showed the saboteurs were technically very competent, since neutralising 25 000-volt power lines required expert knowledge. — AFP