FBI reported mistaking child for terrorist
Air France's grounding of three transatlantic flights over Christmas was a mistake, based on FBI information that in one case confused a child's name with a suspected terrorist, it has been reported.
The Wall Street Journal Europe today reports French officials saying the grounding of the flights was based on an FBI list of six suspects' names indicating militants linked to al Qaeda were planning to hijack an Air France jet.
But today French officials said that when their agents detained the passengers on the Paris-Los Angeles flights, Air France found the name matching that of the head of a Tunisian-based terror group was a child.
Another "terrorist" was a Welsh insurance agent while a third was an elderly Chinese woman who once ran a restaurant in Paris, the newspaper said. The other three on the list were French citizens.
On December 24th, Air France cancelled six flights between Paris and Los Angeles on December 24th and 25th at the request of the French government, which had received information from the United States of a "credible threat" to the carrier.
But a source close to French investigating judges handling terror cases said the report could not be true, because US terrorism investigators never give passenger names, only flight numbers.
"This story cannot be true. At no time did the United States give us names. We never had the names of passengers. They just gave us the numbers of the flights they believed were under threat," he said.
F-16 fighter jets escorted several Air France planes over US air space over the New Year period for fear attackers might try to crash them into American targets.
"We are in a state of maximum security in Parisian and French airports for flights to the United States," French State Secretary for Transport Dominique Bussereau told French radio today.