Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

December 16, 2013

Venezuela finds no explosives on Paris-bound plane

CARACAS, Venezuela — Searchers turned up no evidence of explosives on a Paris-bound Air France plane that was grounded after French intelligence authorities warned that terrorists might be planning to blow it up, Venezuela’s government said Sunday.

More than 60 technicians, bomb experts and a canine team made two exhaustive searches of the aircraft and passenger luggage Saturday night and a third one Sunday with representatives of the airline, Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said.

He said that although no signs of any explosives were found, authorities would closely monitor all Air France flights entering and leaving the country.

The precise nature of the bomb threat was not known, but Rodriguez Torres said French authorities passed along information from a credible source that a terrorist group was seeking to put a bomb aboard an unspecified flight from Caracas to Paris, or vice versa.  

“We don’t want to speculate on the motives because the information comes directly from French intelligence services,” Rodriguez Torres told state TV on Saturday.

In Paris, the French Interior Ministry said Sunday that France immediately alerted Venezuelan authorities upon learning of a potential threat to the route, which is served only by Air France.

“It is obviously the principle of precaution,” Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said. “We cannot allow the least risk, run the least risk for passengers.” He provided no details on the measures taken and refused to comment on the nature of the threat or its origin.

An Air France press officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of company policy, said the carrier was working “in close collaboration” with airport and government authorities.

Stranded passengers said they had cleared immigration Saturday evening and were preparing to board Air France flight 385 when they were told just before its scheduled 7:25 p.m. departure that it was being delayed so the Airbus A340-300 could be checked. No reason was given.

“We only learned reading Twitter that it could’ve been a bomb,” said Jesus Arandia, a 52-year-old university professor.

About 100 angry passengers surrounded the Air France check-in counter to protest the airline’s failure to keep them informed or immediately provide alternative travel arrangements. Around midnight, the airport announced the flight was rescheduled for Sunday.  

“They never told us anything,” said Marbella Covino, a 22-year-old student.  

The passengers were put on the Air France plane Sunday and it left Caracas just before 4 p.m. local time, airport officials said.

Venezuela’s intelligence agency declined to comment on the threat, saying it wasn’t authorized to discuss the case.

Security breaches have been detected before at Venezuela’s main international airport.

In September, several Venezuelan soldiers stationed at the airport were arrested after French authorities made their biggest cocaine bust ever, seizing 1.4 tons of narcotics that were smuggled in 31 suitcases aboard an Air France flight to Paris.

Brandet, of the French Interior Ministry, said the drug bust was among several leads being investigated.

France is involved in two military interventions in former African colonies — in Mali where it routed Islamic extremists from the north and in Central African Republic where French troops moved in earlier this month to help stabilize the country, disarming militia to stop sectarian violence.

The U.S. has warned that Middle Eastern terror groups have tried to make inroads in Venezuela, taking advantage of political cover provided by the late President Hugo Chavez’s outreach to Iran and Syria, whose governments the U.S. considers state sponsors of terrorism.

Still, even while criticizing the lack of anti-terror cooperation from Venezuela, the State Department in its most-recent assessment of terrorist threats in the Western Hemisphere said there are no known operational cells in the region. Instead, the activity of groups including Hezbollah and al-Qaida appears to be limited to fundraising and money-laundering, the report said.

———

Associated Press writers Joshua Goodman in Caracas and Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Economy College Gradu_Stew.jpg Job market for college grads better but still weak

    With college commencement ceremonies nearing, the government is offering a modest dose of good news for graduating seniors: The job market is brightening for new grads — a bit.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Supreme Court TV On t_Stew.jpg Internet TV case: Justices skeptical, concerned

    Grappling with fast-changing technology, Supreme Court justices debated Tuesday whether they can protect the copyrights of TV broadcasters to the shows they send out without strangling innovations in the use of the internet.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1791, the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan, was born in Franklin County, Pa.

    April 23, 2014

  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP520422034 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 22, the 112th day of 2014. There are 253 days left in the year.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Commission to vote to purchase new computers

    Lowndes County commissioners discussed replacing outdated computers, a bid for an emergency bypass pump, an annexation request from the City of Hahira, a juvenile justice grant application, and an appointment to the dangerous dog board.

    April 22, 2014

  • KLVB receives Governor’s Circle Recognition Award

    Keep Lowndes/Valdosta Beautiful received the Governor’s Circle Award. These inaugural, statewide awards were presented by Gov. Nathan Deal at the State Capitol .

    April 22, 2014

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results