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Venezuela suspends Air France flight after bomb warning

Source: Reuters - Sun, 15 Dec 2013 04:03 AM
Author: Reuters
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(Adds details of cocaine found on Air France plane in September)

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Venezuelan authorities took passengers off an Air France flight that was due to depart to Paris on Saturday after French officials warned of a possible bomb threat, Venezuela's interior minister said.

The minister, Miguel Rodriguez Torres, said experts from the Venezuelan intelligence agency Sebin were examining the aircraft, which had been about to make the overnight flight to the French capital from Caracas' Simon Bolivar international airport.

Rodriguez told Venezuelan state TV that Sebin received information from the French intelligence and anti-terrorist authorities.

"The information we have is that a terrorist group intended to place an explosive on a flight between France and Venezuela," said the minister, who is also the head of Sebin.

Rodriguez gave no more details, but said it was not clear if the threat referred to a Caracas to Paris flight, or vice versa.

He said the delayed flight, AF385, would be rescheduled after an exhaustive search, involving dozens of technicians and explosives experts, as well as a canine team, had been completed.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry was not immediately available for comment. There was no immediate word from Air France.

In September, Venezuelan authorities arrested several National Guard soldiers and airport baggage handlers after 1.3 tonnes of cocaine worth as much as $270 million was found on an Air France plane after it arrived in Paris from Caracas.

Venezuelan prosecutors said at the time that six people - three Italians and three Britons - had been arrested by police in Paris in connection with the drugs haul. (Additional reporting by Nicholas Vinocur in Paris; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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