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Air France CEO Says Suspected 'Explosive Device' in Plane's Toilet Was a Hoax

The head of Air France says a suspicious object that forced a plane coming from Mauritius to make an emergency landing in Kenya “did not contain explosives."

by Reuters and VICE News
Dec 20 2015, 2:25pm

Photo via EPA

An Air France flight from Mauritius with 473 people aboard was forced to make an emergency landing in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa early Sunday morning after a suspicious object was found in the plane's toilet. Air France's CEO announced later on Sunday, however, that the bomb scare was the result of a hoax.

Frederic Gagey, the head of Air France, said at a news conference in Paris that the device was made of cardboard, paper and a household timer. "This object did not contain explosives," he said

Kenyan authorities said previously that they were investigating the nature of the object, which was "believed to be an explosive device," according to a message posted on Twitter by the Kenya Airports Authority.

Gagey said the crew acted appropriately by deciding to divert the flight, which left Mauritius bound for Paris. He said the bathroom was checked as part of a routine safety procedure before takeoff.

The Associated Press cited a Kenyan police official as saying that six passengers are being questioned over the incident, including one who first reported the suspicious object to the flight crew.

Earlier on Sunday, Kenyan Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery told reporters at Mombasa's Moi International Airport that Kenyan authorities were working with their French and Mauritian counterparts to investigate the incident. Mauritius is an island nation east of Madagascar.

Nkaissery said that an undisclosed number of passengers who were aboard the flight were being questioned about the suspect device, but did not say if they were under arrest.

"We are in touch with Mauritius to know how security screening of passengers was done. A few passengers are being interrogated," he said.

Police Inspector General Joseph Boinnet said on his Twitter account that the Boeing 777 aircraft headed to Paris with 459 passengers and 14 crew, was safely evacuated after it landed at the airport at 12:37am local time on Sunday.

"Bomb experts from the Navy and DCI (Directorate of Criminal Investigations) have retrieved the device and are determining whether the components contained explosives," Boinnet said.

Air France said in a statement that as a precaution, all passengers were evacuated from the aircraft by its emergency slides.

"They are (being) taken care of by Mombasa's airport ground staff and will be accommodated. An investigation is being led by the authorities to identify the source of the threat," it said.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said on its Twitter account that flights from Mombasa airport were disrupted due to the emergency landing. The agency also said on Facebook that normal airport operations have since resumed at the airport in Mombasa.

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This story was updated since it was initially published.