Air France bomb scare: Suspicious device found in toilets was 'hoax', says airline's CEO

Six people being questioned after suspicious device found on aircraft

Eleanor Ross
Sunday 20 December 2015 16:46 GMT
Airport workers are seen near the Air France Boeing 777
Airport workers are seen near the Air France Boeing 777 (AP)

A suspicious device that prompted a bomb scare on an Air France flight to Paris was a hoax, the airline's boss has said.

Flight 463 from Mauritius was forced to make an emergency landing in Mombasa, Kenya, after the object was discovered in the toilets of the aircraft, which was carrying 473 people.

Kenyan authorities initially said the item was a bomb and had been removed by the country's navy to be detonated.

But Frederic Gagey, the head of Air France, said investigations revealed the device was made of cardboard, paper and a household timer.

"This object did not contain explosives," he told a news conference in Paris.

The device was found after a passenger reported it to a member of the cabin crew. It was then reported to the pilots, who made an emergency landing.

A Kenyan official told the AP six passengers were being questioned over the incident, adding that one of those being questioned is the man who found the package.

A passenger who spoke to journalists after leaving the plane in Mombasa described the emergency landing.

"The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably something was wrong," said Benoit Lucchini from Paris.

"The personnel of Air France was just great, they were just wonderful. So they keep everybody calm. We did not know what was happening," said Lucchini. "So we secured the seat belt to land in Mombasa because we thought it was a technical problem but actually it was not a technical problem. It was something in the toilet. Something wrong in the toilet, it could be a bomb."

The plane was carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew members on board, all of whom disembarked safely.

Kenya Airports Authority had previously said: "The object, believed to be an explosive device has successfully been retrieved from the aircraft."

The statement was then updated to omit the word ‘bomb’.

The most recent post read: “We confirm of an emergency landing by Air France's flight from Mauritius at Moi Int'l Airport this morning after reports of a suspicious object was found on board.

"Scheduled flights to Mombasa were disrupted this morning due to the incident and normal airport operations have resumed at Moi International Airport.

"Investigations are underway by the National Security Agents on the ground and Air France.”

Two other Air France flights from the US to Paris were diverted on November 18 after bomb threats were received. No bombs were found on the planes from Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

France has been under a state of emergency since a series of co-ordinated attacks on November 13 that left 130 people dead.

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