False alarm over cancelled flights

Fears of a Christmas Day September 11-style attack have eased after French intelligence dismissed a "terror threat" to six cancelled Air France flights.

    Six flights were cancelled between Paris and LA

    The climbdown came after checks

    on passenger lists failed to turn up any

     "terror links"

    .

    A spokeswoman at the French prime minister's office said on Thursday that

    no

    formal inquiry was under way.

    She added

    no arrests had been made in

    connection with Wednesday's cancellation of the flights between

    Paris and Los Angeles.

    "We have not detected passengers with the profile of people

    belonging to a radical Islamic group," a source close to French

    investigating judges that deal with terrorism said.

    "All the checks so far have come to nothing."

    Passenger checks

    France's DST counter-intelligence service

    checked passenger lists of US-bound Christmas flights after a

    tip-off from US intelligence.

    A US official said "credible, reliable" intelligence

    reports had been relayed to France saying "extremist" groups were

    planning "near-term simultaneous attacks" that could be on a

    scale of the September 11 attacks

    .

    The DST questioned a number of people, but found no evidence

    of members of radical Islamist groups among them.

    "There were people who were felt to pose a risk, in terms of

    being possible al-Qaida supporters, because of the countries

    they had visited. Because of the end-year security alert, the

    US authorities didn't want to take any risks"

    Roland Jacquard,
    International Terrorism Observatory

    The only person named by US Intelligence as a suspect, a

    Tunisian man with a pilot's licence, was still in Tunisia and

    had no apparent plans to leave the country.

    French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin decided to cancel

    the flights in question, even though the DST's checks were

    negative, in order to eliminate any trace of risk.

    Precaution

    The head of the International Terrorism Observatory in

    Paris, Roland Jacquard, also said the flights had been cancelled

    as a precaution.

    "There were people who were felt to pose a risk, in terms of

    being possible al-Qaida supporters, because of the countries

    they had visited. Because of the end-year security alert, the

    US authorities didn't want to take any risks," Jacquard said.

    "But it's supposition. There may well be more checks on

    these people, inquiries may be started, but we are not at the

    operational stage, so to speak."

    An Air France spokeswoman said flights to Los Angeles would

    resume on Friday as normal.

    Two flights were due to leave Paris

    on Friday - one at midday and the

     second in the evening

    .

    Two return flights from Los Angeles to Paris were also to

    depart as normal, she said.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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