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Couple held in Paris over fake bomb on diverted Air France flight

AFP | A picture taken on December 20, 2015 shows an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris grounded at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa after it made an emergency landing due to a bomb alert.

French police on Monday detained a couple who were passengers on an Air France flight which was forced to make an emergency landing in Kenya after a fake bomb was found on board, a police source said.

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The couple were taken into custody by border police on their return to France, a day after their flight from Mauritius to Paris made an emergency landing at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa.

Air France 463, a Boeing 777 aircraft carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew, was safely evacuated early on Sunday using the aircraft's slides.

"After analysis, it has been indicated that it was a false alarm," said Air France CEO Frederic Gagey 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.

Gagey congratulated the crew for their cool-headed reaction to divert the plane. He said that a safety check was carried out in the bathroom before the flight and denied any security failure in the flight. He added 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 authorised to speak to the press.

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 realised probably something was wrong,” said the 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.”

Sunday’s incident was the fourth bomb hoax against the airline in recent weeks.

Two Air France flights from the US to Paris were diverted on November 17 after bomb threats were received. No bombs were found on the planes from Los Angeles and Washington. Air France officials said the third hoax was on a December 8 flight from San Francisco to Paris.

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 AFP, AP, REUTERS)

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