Suspicious item causes Air France diversion

Posted at 7:08 AM, Dec 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-20 09:08:13-05

An Air France flight made an emergency landing early Sunday in Kenya after a suspicious device was found in the plane’s bathroom.

The Boeing 777, which had 473 people on board, was heading to Paris from Mauritius when a passenger discovered the item in the bathroom, according to Kenyan police. The passenger alerted the crew who then notified the captain.

Air France said the crew decided to land in Kenya as a precaution.

The plane made an emergency landing at Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya, and the passengers were safely evacuated, said Kenyan police, who added that bomb experts retrieved the suspicious item and were examining it to see if it contained explosives.

"If this device was found three-and-a-half hours into the flight, it's likely that somebody on board that aircraft placed it in the lavatory," said retired Col. Stephen Ganyard, an ABC News contributor. "This will allow police to thoroughly screen the passenger manifest, question everybody."

Officials with the Kenyan Interior Ministry and Defence Ministry said the passengers and crew were evacuated to hotels with a number of the passengers being questioned.

Benoit Lucchini, who was on the plane, said it was like "something wrong in the toilet, like a -- it could be like a bomb, something like that."

The officials also said the plane was removed from the runway and investigators “are in liaison” with officials in Mauritius and France.

Kenya airports said normal operations have resumed at Moi International Airport following service disruptions due to the incident.

This latest incident is a close call for shaken Parisians and for aviation officials still on edge after ISIS fighters claimed credit for detonating a bomb on board a Russian airline over Egypt in October.

"These third-world airports continue to be attractive to terrorists," said Ganyard. "It's much easier to get a bomb or get a device through security at a third-world airport -- at a smaller airport -- than it is, say, a larger [airport] like Paris or in New York."