Air France says suspicious device on diverted flight was a hoax
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Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey said Sunday that a suspicious device that prompted a Paris-bound flight to make an emergency landing in Kenya was “not capable of causing an explosion”.
"After analysis, it has been indicated that it was a false alarm," said the Air France CEO of the item that was found in the toilet cubicle on board the plane flying from Mauritius to the French capital.
"All the information we have at this stage shows that the object was not capable of causing an explosion that would damage the plane but was rather a mixture of cardboard, pieces of paper as well as a timer," he said.
Air France 463, a Boeing 777 aircraft with 459 passengers and 14 crew, requested an emergency landing in Kenya after the suspicious-looking object was found.
Passengers were safely evacuated at Moi International Airport in Mombasa early on Sunday, using the aircraft's slides.
Gagey congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to divert the plane. A safety check was carried out in the bathroom before the flight, he said. He denied any security failure in the flight, saying that passengers are checked and sometimes double-checked on flights.
Six passengers are being questioned over the incident, said a Kenyan police official, who is part of the investigation and who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
A passenger reported the device to the cabin crew who informed the pilots leading to an emergency landing at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. One of those being interrogated is the man who reported 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 a passenger who identified himself as Benoit Luchini of 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 Luchini. “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.”
France is on high alert after jihadist attacks in Paris in November left 130 people dead, and is one of many countries taking extra security precautions.
The Islamic State terrorist group which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks also said it was responsible for downing a Russian jet in October after smuggling a bomb onto the plane, killing all 224 people on board.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)