French police have detained a retired police officer over the discovery of a fake bomb on board an Air France plane which made an emergency landing in Kenya, a legal source has told Agence France-Presse. Border police took the 58-year-old man – a passenger on the flight – into custody on his return to France, while his wife was also being questioned as a witness, a day after their flight from Mauritius to Paris was diverted to Mombasa. The source gave no further details about the couple, including their nationalities.
A passenger alerted crew members to the device found inside a toilet cubicle on Sunday on board the Boeing 777, which was carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew.When the plane landed in Mombasa, passengers were evacuated using emergency slides before navy and police bomb experts were called in to examine the suspicious item. The object, made up of cardboard, paper and a kitchen timer, was found to pose no danger to the aircraft or its passengers, Air France’s chief executive, Frédéric Gagey, said on Sunday.
He said the deduction was that the item had been placed in a toilet cupboard by one of the passengers and that the bomb scare appeared to be the result of a bad joke. Several passengers were questioned in Mombasa before a plane was sent to take all those on board to France. An Air France spokesman said the airline had “filed a legal complaint against unknown persons for endangering the life of others”.
France is on high alert after terrorist attacks in Paris in November left 130 people dead. It is one of many countries taking extra security precautions. Airlines are especially worried after jihadis from Islamic State, which claimed the Paris attacks, also said they were responsible for downing a Russian jet in Egypt in October after smuggling a bomb on to the plane, killing all 224 people on board.
Gagey said there had been three bomb scares on Air France planes in the US in the past 15 days. The Mauritian deputy prime minister, Xavier Luc Duval, said airport security in the country had been boosted as a precaution. “All procedures at the airport have been reviewed and it was confirmed that they are scrupulously respected,” Duval said after he met with security and airport chiefs.
Gagey said the object was found “in a small cupboard behind the mirror” in the toilet. He said the bits of cardboard and paper and what “appeared to be a kitchen timer” were not items normally found on board. Gagey said crew members had also indicated that in their routine check of the plane before the flight, the cupboard had been empty.