The police official, who is part of the investigation and insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to give information to the media, said during the flight a passenger noticed something in a lavatory which looked like “a stop watch mounted on a box.”
The passenger reported to the cabin crew who informed the pilots leading to an emergency landing at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa. He said one of those being interrogated is the man who reported the package.
Bomb experts are inspecting the device to see if it was an explosive, Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said at a press conference at the Mombasa airport.
The Boeing 777 Air France flight 463 was heading to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris when the pilots requested an emergency landing at the Moi International Airport at 12:37 am, Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said.
“It requested an emergency landing when a device suspected to be an explosive was discovered in the lavatory,” Owino said.
The plane was carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew members on board and had left Mauritius at 9 pm, Owino said.
All passengers were safely evacuated and the device was taken out, said Owino.
“The object, believed to be an explosive device has successfully been retrieved from the aircraft,” said Kenya Airports Authority in a post on Twitter, adding that scheduled flights to Mombasa were disrupted during the interval but that normal operations have resumed.
A passenger who spoke to journalists after leaving the plane in Mombasa described the emergency landing.
“The plane just went down slowly, slowly, slowly, so we just realized probably something was wrong,” said Benoit Lucchini of Paris.
“The personnel of Air France was just great, they were just wonderful. So they keep everybody calm. We did not know what was happening,” said Lucchini. “So we secured the seat belt to land in Mombasa because we thought it was a technical problem but actually it was not a technical problem. It was something in the toilet. Something wrong in the toilet, it could be a bomb.”
The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is a popular destination for French tourists.
France has been under a state of emergency since the November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. The ISIS has claimed responsibility for that and the October 31 crash of a Russian passenger in the Sinai desert that killed all 224 people aboard. Moscow has said that the crash was caused by a bomb on the plane.
Two Air France flights from the US to Paris were diverted on November 18 after bomb threats were received. No bombs were found on the planes from Los Angeles and Washington, DC.