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French blast accident not terror

The explosion caused extensive damage
The explosion caused extensive damage  

PARIS, France -- A factory explosion in southern France which killed 30 people was accidental, a prosecutor investigating the incident has said.

Michel Breard ruled out terrorism as the cause of the blast, which happened 10 days after the September 11 terror strikes against the United States.

About 2,500 people were injured and thousands of homes destroyed when the petrochemicals factory, near Toulouse, exploded. In the days after the blast the authorities refused to rule out terrorism.

But Breard said on Tuesday: "The theory of an attack or of criminal intent is no longer valid. All our leads point towards an accident."

He would not say what kind of accident may have set off the explosion but highlighted what he called possible safety failings at the AZF unit of oil giant TotalFinaElf. The investigation is ongoing.

The confirmation follows other findings by groups such as France's Interior Ministry.

It said in October that an accident and not terror was the most likely cause of the explosion.

The incident on September 21 was initially considered suspicious as police began investigating the background of a 35-year-old contract worker found dead at the scene.

The ministry confirmed that French intelligence had made inquiries into Hassan Jandoubi, a French citizen of Tunisian origin, but said nothing troubling had been found.

Authorities said the blast was sparked in a silo containing 300 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used in fertiliser or explosives.


• French factory blast kills 17
September 21, 2001
• Anti-terror probe into French blast
October 4, 2001
• French blast death toll rises
September 22, 2001
• French factory blast an 'accident'
October 05, 2001

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