First, it was suspicious. Then, it was REAL. Now it is FAKE.
There are so many versions of this tale that it is getting hard to keep track.
But the latest word from Air France CEO Frederic Gagey is that the suspected “device” was a faker, made of paper and a timer.
The “bomb scare” on Air France flight 463 Sunday morning was taken by sappers away from Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya to be scrutinized after it was found by a passenger in the lavatory of the plane.
Gagey told reporters that because there was no explosive material in the device, it would not have been detected during pre-flight security checks in Mauritius. Passengers and crew were not at risk, he said.
The device appeared to have been made from a carton, sheets of paper and a kitchen timer, Gagey explained. It was placed behind a mirror in the lavatory. The Air France CEO thanked the crew and Kenyan authorities for the professional manner in which they handled the incident.
It was the fourth such “bomb scare” to strike Air France since the November 13 terrorist massacre in Paris.
The flight set out from Mauritius en route to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris with 459 passengers and 14 crew members.
When the device was discovered, the pilot requested an emergency landing and then brought the plane down very, very slowly, according to one passenger who spoke with the BBC. “The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably, something was wrong,” he said.
But passengers were told only that the plane was being diverted due to a technical problem.
The Kenya government issued a statement to media at the time saying, “Bomb experts from the Navy and DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) have retrieved the device and are determining whether the components contained explosives.”
Kenyan Interior Ministry cabinet secretary Joseph Nkaissery said authorities were also checking into the security screening procedures that had been carried out by France and Mauritius. “We are in touch with Mauritius to know how security screening of passengers was done,” he said. “A few passengers are being interrogated.”
“The explosive was carried away to a safe place outside the airport. Bomb experts from the Kenya Navy took the bomb away to safety,” the Kenya Airports Authority said in a Facebook post.
At least six passengers were questioned about the device, a police official told Associated Press on condition of anonymity. One passenger described it as “a stopwatch mounted on a box,” the official said.
Hana Levi Julian