(NEW YORK) An Air France plane was intercepted by US fighter jets and escorted to JFK airport in New York City after an anonymous ‘chemical weapons’ threat was made against the flight, airline authorities said on Monday after they received anonymous threats warning about the risk of either ‘chemical weapons’ or bombs onboard at least five New York bound flights.
Three warnings have been received about ‘chemical weapons’ including an Air France flight which was forced to make an emergency landing at JFK at 10:17 a.m. on Monday.
Further warnings about ‘chemical weapons’ were phoned in relating to an American Airways flight landing from Birmingham, England, and a Delta flight coming into Newark, New Jersey.
In addition, bomb threats have been received in relation to a Saudi Airlines flight that landed safely at Kennedy airport from Jeddah and a cargo plane bound for Newark. The threats are not considered to be credible, but authorities are taking no chances and are following security protocols.
It wasn’t immediately clear if any of the other flights were handled like the Air France flight.
Law enforcement sources are concerned that the threats are a possible plot to disrupt and delay air travel in the New York area on the last day of the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Although the Air France threat wasn’t considered credible, authorities took the decision to scramble the jets as a ‘precautionary measure’ because the airline did not immediately respond to government requests for information. Monday is also a state holiday in France, reports ABC News.
The tip was called in at 6:45 a.m. on an untraceable line and the caller did not identify himself.
The two F16 planes were scrambled and followed the plane but they flew in such a way so that the passengers and crew were not able to see the military planes. The caller said that four flights had devices on board but only specified the JFK-bound Air France flight.
After landing the Airbus A-330 was taken to a secure area – between runway 22L and 22R – generally known as the ‘hijack site’ because it is the area used in such emergency scenario. It was later joined by the Saudi Airways flight from Jeddah to New York. So far security checks have turned up nothing unusual on either flight.
Law enforcement sources are concerned that the threats are a possible plot to disrupt and delay air travel in the New York area on the last day of the Memorial Day holiday weekend
In Washington, meanwhile, a bomb squad has safely destroyed a pressure cooker found in an unattended vehicle parked on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol.
The vehicle’s owner has been found and arrested, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman said.
Officers were on routine patrol when they spotted the parked, unoccupied vehicle on a street on the mall west of the Capitol around 5 p.m. on Sunday.