An Air France B777 flight from Mauritius to Paris with 473 people aboard diverted to Kenya for an emergency landing last night after a suspected bomb was found in one of the plane’s toilets.
Kenya Airports Authority said an object “believed to be an explosive device has successfully been retrieved” from Air France flight AF 463 heading to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris from Mauritius.
Pilots requested an emergency landing at Moi International Airport in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa after the alarming discovery.
The plane’s 459 passengers and 14 crew were safely evacuated, using emergency slides. They were accommodated at local hotels while bomb experts studied the device.
Several hours went by before Air France officials said the contents of the package had been found to be harmless. The bomb was a hoax; a fake bomb.
Four passengers have been arrested over the incident. Speculation persists that the hoax bomb could have been assembled aboard the aircraft and placed in the toilet. The components could have passed easily and separately through airport security in Mauritius without arousing suspicion.
At a press conference last night (Australian time), Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey described the object as a cardboard box with papers and “something like a kitchen timer” inside it.
A passenger had found it in a cupboard behind the restroom mirror, Gagey said. He could not say if the object was assembled before the flight, but the materials were not ones that would usually be aboard the aircraft.
The airline said it was sending another plane to Mombasa to fly the stranded passengers to Paris.
Written by Peter Needham