Update: Air France Officials now say that the bomb scare was a “false alarm”. This is a conflicting development as Kenyan officials earlier said that the device was indeed a bomb.
Air France Flight 463, an Air France flight from Mauritius to Paris, was forced to make an emergency landing in Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa. The plane, which was carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew members, had left Mauritius at 9 p.m. local time. It was scheduled to land at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport at 5:50 a.m., local time today. However, the crew diverted the plane mid-flight to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport, the nearest airport, after a suspicious object was discovered inside one of the toilets inside the plane. The Air France flight landed at Mombasa at around 1 a.m. local time.
After hours of searching and investigation, Kenyan authorities have confirmed that the object found inside the plane was a bomb. A senior official from the Kenyan Interior Ministry, Joseph Nkaissery, arrived at Mombasa a few hours after the plane landed there. He said a statement would be released before the end of the day announcing the details. He also added that several passengers onboard the plane are being questioned, the Guardian reported.
“A number of passengers are still under interrogation as part of the probe and we don’t want to talk more before we establish what and who was behind it.”
The fact that a bomb was recovered from Air France Flight AF 463 was posted in a statement posted on the official Facebook page of the Kenya Airports Authority. The statement read as follows.
“We confirm of an emergency landing by Air France’s flight from Mauritius at Moi Int’l Airport this morning after reports of a suspicious object was found on board. The object has successfully been retrieved from the Paris bound flight. Scheduled flights to Mombasa were disrupted this morning due to the incident. Normal airport operations have resumed at Moi International Airport. Investigations are underway by the National Security Agents on the ground and Air France.”
Authorities further added that Bomb experts from the Kenya Navy took the bomb away to safety and that they already suspect two passengers as key suspects.
“The Kenyan security is zeroing in on two passengers who appear suspicious. The Mombasa security team and Airport security in Mombasa have also secured the airport and all critical facilities around. The bomb has been taken to safe destination for detonation in the morning.”
Meanwhile, Air France officials said a replacement plane is being sent to Kenya in order to pick up the stranded passengers. A spokeswoman from the airline also confirmed that Kenyan authorities were interviewing passengers. Earlier, Charles Owino, a spokesman for the Kenyan Police, said that the plane requested an emergency landing after a strange device was found inside the lavatory.
“It requested an emergency landing after a device suspected to be a bomb was discovered in the lavatory, an emergency was prepared and it landed safely and all passengers evacuated. Bomb experts from the navy and the CID were called in and took the device which they are dismantling to establish if it had any explosives,” he said.
As of now, the Air France flight remains grounded. A local TV channel reported that one passenger was in the custody of Kenyan officials. An unnamed official from Kenya also told Kenyan website Standard Digital News that the object was a real bomb.
“It is a real bomb and it could have exploded airborne or on arriving in Paris. More will be disclosed but we have a suspect in custody.”
This is the third Air France flight to have been diverted in the course of the past few weeks. Back in November, two flights bound for Paris — from the U.S. — were diverted after bomb threats. The threats were, however, found to be false, as no explosives were found, even after a thorough search.
France has been in a state of emergency since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. The ISIS had claimed responsibility for that incident and has threatened France with future attacks, as well. 2015 also saw the deadly Russian plane crash in Egypt — again, a suspected attack by ISIS that left 224 people dead.
[Photos by AP Photo/Edwin Kana]