Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
AZF was the name of a chemical factory near Toulouse, France, which exploded on September 21, 2001. In the spring of 2004, a terrorist group adopted the same name and threatened the French government with bombings on railways.
AZF Explosion at a Toulouse chemical factory
The results of the official enquiry were that a warehouse of ammonium nitrate had exploded following improper handling of this dangerous material, including mixing with chemical impurities .
Three hundred tons of ammonium nitrates were stored (the maximum capacity was 2,000 tons). The whole factory was destroyed making a crater of depth 20 to 30m (65 to 100ft), with a diameter of 200m (650 ft); steel girders were found 3 km away from the explosion. The explosion was heard 80km away (50 miles).
The factory was close to the city: one of the most inhabited areas, Le Mirail, is just one kilometer away (0.6 miles). Several schools, one hospital and a psychatric hospital had to be evacuated.
The disaster caused 30 deaths (28 from the factory, one lycéen — secondary school/high school pupil — from a neighbouring school), 2,500 seriously wounded and 8,000 light casualties. Two thirds of the city's windows were shattered, causing 70 eye wounds and several thousand wounds had to be sutured.
40,000 people — 10% of the population — were made homeless for a few days.
The group has attempted to extort money from the government of France by threatening to place explosives along the nation's rail lines. The French government tried to pay them twice, but the first time the helicopter couldn't find the transfer point and on the second occasion couldn't take off because of fog. The French government placed ads in Libération, a newspaper in France to contact the terrorists.
Once, to demonstrate their power, they led the French railway workers to a bomb, who neutralized it. A week or so later another bomb was found on the TGV train tracks, but it wasn't live and wasn't the same as the one found earlier . It is not sure if this was the work of AZF.
The authors were not identified and their motivations are still unclear. The most probable hypothesis is the money. They probably stopped their activity because of the train bombing in Madrid on the 11 March 2004.
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