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Al-Jazeera journalists arrested for flying drone in Paris

Thierry Zoccolan, AFP | The three journalists were flying the drone from a park on the outskirts of the city

French police on Wednesday detained three Al-Jazeera journalists for illegally flying a drone from a Paris park. Their arrests come as authorities are investigating sightings of drones flying over key Parisian landmarks for two consecutive nights.

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The journalists -- all foreign nationals -- were taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon after police saw a drone flying in the Bois de Boulogne woods in western Paris, Paris prosecutors’ spokeswoman, Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, said.

A judicial source added that "the first was piloting the drone, the second was filming and the third was watching".

Officials with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The journalists can be held for a maximum of 24 hours under French law. Flying drones without a license in France is illegal and carries a maximum one-year prison sentence and a 75,000 euro fine.

Wednesday’s incident comes on the heels of two consecutive nights of unidentified drones flying over the Eiffel Tower, the French Senate, the Gare de l’Est train station and other key landmarks in the city, including the US embassy.

An inquiry has been launched into the incidents.

It is still not known who was behind those flights, how many objects there were in total and even whether they were all coordinated.

Last month a drone caused worry after being sighted flying over the Elysée Palace, the residence of President François Hollande - following dozens of sightings of drones over nuclear plants and military installations.

These latest episodes have sparked particular concern, with Paris already on its highest security-alert after January’s deadly terrorist attacks by Islamist militants.

French authorities have said the drones currently present no threat, apart from the risk of falling on someone, but the government is trying to find ways to counteract the devices. Some fear the drones could be spying on technology or could one day be equipped with weapons.

Drone operator Jean-Luc Fournier, who has consulted on French drone legislation, said authorised operators condemn such rogue flights because it casts the whole industry in a bad light.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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