France on Edge: Bomb at IMF in Paris, School Shooting Raise Specter of Terrorism

One person hurt following the apparent explosion of a suspect package in IMF Paris office; Armed 16-year-old arrested in Grasse school shooting, in which eight people were injured. Attack appears to be an "act of madness," according to French foreign minister.

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French police officers take position after letter bomb exploded at the French office of the International Monetary Fund, lightly injuring one person, Thursday March 16, 2017. A police official said no other damage was been reported in the incident.
French police officers take position after letter bomb exploded at the French office of the International Monetary Fund, lightly injuring one person, Thursday March 16, 2017. A police official said noCredit: Thibault Camus/AP

France was put on edge Thursday in wake of a bombing at the International Monetary Fund in Paris that was shortly followed by an unrelated shooting at a school in the south.

Though both were initially feared to be acts of terrorism, a national police official said authorities have no reason to suspect the school shooting was terrorism-related and Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem visited the scene and called it "the crazy act of a fragile young man fascinated by firearms."

A female employee of the IMF suffered injuries to her face and arms in Paris when a letter bomb mailed from Greece and addressed to the world lender's European representative blew up as she opened it, officials said. 

The secretary, whose hearing was also affected, was receiving treatment but her injuries were not life-threatening, Paris police chief Michel Cadot told reporters. The blast caused little damage to the office. 

The letter was intended for the IMF's European representative, according to police. Jeffrey Franks, a 24-year veteran of the fund, has been director of the IMF's Europe office since March 2015, according to its website. 

A militant Greek group, Conspiracy of Fire Cells, claimed responsibility for a parcel bomb mailed to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Wednesday, but there was no immediate claim for the Paris attack. 

However, a Greek return address was on the envelope which exploded in Paris, Greece's public order minister said in Athens. 

"French authorities just informed us that it was mailed from Greece," Nikos Toskas told Ant1 Television. 

The explosion was caused by a device that was fairly home-made, "like a big fire cracker," police chief Cadot said. 

President Francois Hollande said French authorities would do all they could to find those responsible for the attack on the IMF. "I want to tell all those who work for this great institution that we are by their side," he said. 

Shooting in Grasse

shortly after the attack at the IMF, a 16-year-old student opened fire at a high school in the southern town of Grasse, wounding two other students and the principal who was trying to intervene, officials said.

Police moved into the Alexis de Tocqueville school in the town of Grasse — the country's picturesque perfume capital — and arrested the still-armed suspect, identified by the Interior Ministry spokesman as Killian Barbey.

The motive behind the shooting was not immediately clear but an Interior Minsitry spokesman said "The first investigations suggest he (the perpetrator) had consulted videos of mass killings in America."

The student was arrested in possession of multiple weapons after the attack, a police official said.

The attack, which came as France remained under a state of emergency after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks over the past two years.

While no terrorism link has been identified, "All this justifies the state of emergency," President Francois Hollande said, adding that it would remain in place until July 15, as planned.

The government sent out an alert warning of an attack after police reported that shots were fired, but later lifted it. The alert is part of a system implemented by the government after the deadly November 2015 attacks in Paris.