Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Air France resumes NYC flights after terror scare

FEARS US authorities were worried about a Tunisian with a pilot's license supposed to be travelling on the airline

AFP , Paris

Air France on Friday resumed flights between Paris and Los Angeles after a two-day suspension sparked by US fears that some of the planes might be used for a Christmas attack by Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

The alert was raised Wednesday, when US officials relayed what they said was specific intelligence that those flights could be used for attacks similar to the ones on Sept. 11, 2001.

The French government reacted by immediately cancelling the six flights -- three of them to Los Angeles and three on the return to Paris -- and carefully screening the passengers stranded in the French capital, but found no evidence linking any of them to any terror plot.

Police told reporters Friday that all the passengers had been checked, and that those who failed to turn up for check-in "are not being subjected to any special attention by any service whatsoever."

A source with France's anti-terrorist police unit said Thursday that the focus of the US warning was a Tunisian man with a pilot's license listed on one of the passenger lists.

But, the source said, it was determined that the man was still in Tunisia, not France, and he had no intention of travelling soon. He was also unknown to French anti-terrorist services.

Another seven passengers -- a Frenchman, an American and five Algerians -- whose names had also been given by the CIA were questioned but nothing suspicious was discovered, police sources said.

The Washington Post reported Friday that US authorities were investigating a number of the passengers who failed to check in, and that they remained suspicious of the Tunisian man.

"We still have an interest in talking to those people who didn't show up," an official close to the investigation told the daily.

"There might be more to come on this," the official said.

The scare was costly to Air France, which had to pay for accommodation for the passengers on the cancelled flights, as well as refunds or new tickets.

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