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France reviews airport security

AA 63 after being forced to land in Boston
AA 63 after being forced to land in Boston  

PARIS, France -- Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have launched separate inquiries into how an airline passenger managed to board a flight with suspected explosives hidden in his shoe.

The unnamed man was able to get past security and board a Miami-bound flight at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris.

American Airlines flight 63 was forced to make an emergency landing in Boston on Saturday after the man attempted to light what may have been an explosive device, authorities said.

The passenger was quickly subdued, and the jetliner with 185 passengers and 12 crew members on board landed safely at Logan International Airport.

During the melee, two flight attendants were injured -- one of them bitten by the man -- said a spokeswoman for Massport, the organisation that operates the airport.

U.S. explosives inquiry after jet scare 
Thierry Dugeon describes the melee on flight 63
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As the FBI continued to question the suspect on Sunday, France launched its own inquiry into how the man was able to evade the security measures which are supposed to have been improved since the September 11 terror attacks in the U.S.

"For the moment, we do not know how this man got through," an official for French Border Police, which shares responsibility for security at all airports in France with the Interior Ministry, told The Associated Press.

"He had a British passport, and we're trying to determine whether it was falsified."

U.S. authorities are investigating whether he used a British passport with the fake identity "Richard Reid."

A British Foreign Office spokesman, in London, said: "We are acting on the basis he is a British citizen.

"We are seeking normal consular access as we would with any UK citizen."

Patrick Rouby, chief of the Air and Frontier Police (PAF) at Charles de Gaulle airport, cast doubt on the exact nature of the substance found in the man's shoes.

An FBI agent, left, sits next to a man U.S. authorities believe tried to ignite explosives in his shoes on transatlantic flight
An FBI agent, left, sits next to a man U.S. authorities believe tried to ignite explosives in his shoes on transatlantic flight  

"There is a doubt about the nature of this substance," Rouby told France 2 television.

The PAF has opened an inquiry into the security measures at the airport.

Asked if there were gaps in the security measures taken in Paris since the September 11 attacks, he said: "You cannot speak of gaps, to the contrary -- there has been an enormous increase in security measures."

But he added: "It is clear there can be an unforeseen turn of events."

"I cannot explain this situation," another PAF official, Joel Dorne, told France Inter radio when asked about the British passport -- possibly forged -- the man used.

"In principle it is not possible to pass police controls with such documents, especially for flights considered sensitive after September 11 -- unless the forgery is perfect."

About a dozen sniffer dogs are stationed at Charles de Gaulle airport, and French Border Police have asked for up to 100.

However, an air transportation expert told AP that it was "practically impossible" to have enough dogs to ferret out explosives that might be hidden among the tens of thousands of passengers who board flights daily.

"We don't want to put dogs all over the airport. They are living beings, not machines, and they can't work 24 hours a day," the expert said.

Dogs are best used to inspect individual passengers who arouse suspicions, he said.

The incident prompted a fresh warning from British terrorism expert Mike Yardley that airport security still needed to be improved.

Yardley told the Press Association: "This is another example of how the low-tech approach has defeated airport security systems.

"It appears the man smuggled the explosives past security in his shoe and was attempting to detonate it with a simple box of matches.

"It was only the keen sense of smell of a stewardess that prevented what could have been another disaster.

"It draws chilling comparisons with September 11, where the terrorists managed to gain control of the planes with something as low-tech as knives."


• Explosives inquiry after jet scare
December 23, 2001

• Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport
• American Airlines

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