PARIS — A 16-year-old student was arrested over a bomb hoax outside Paris, police sources said on Friday (Oct 20), as authorities scrambled to halt a week of bomb scares at airports, schools and landmarks.
The spate of fake threats has hit a country on high alert since the Hamas attack on Israel, Israel’s ensuing assault on Gaza and the fatal stabbing of a teacher in the northern French city of Arras last week.
The teenager was arrested on Thursday in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, a town northwest of Paris, over a bomb threat emailed to his school.
Around 1,200 people, including around a thousand pupils, were subsequently evacuated from the Jean Perrin high school.
No explosives were found following an examination of the site, and the teenager’s exact motive remained unclear.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the French authorities had made 18 arrests over false bomb threats on Wednesday and Thursday.
Most of France’s major airports outside Paris were targeted, leading to evacuations, hours-long delays and dozens of cancelled flights.
A new slew of threats affected 14 regional airports on Friday.
Bordeaux and Beziers in the south were evacuated while others, including Lille in the northeast and Nantes on the west, were able to rule out danger without removing passengers.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said on Friday that 22 probes had been launched into false alarms.
“There will obviously be convictions. We cannot let this happen,” Dupond-Moretti told broadcaster RTL.
He reiterated his pledge to crack down on “little jokers who have no sense of responsibility”.
“I remind you that it is the parents who will pay the financial consequences,” added Dupond-Moretti.
Offenders risk two years in prison and a 30,000-euro (S$43,600) fine.
Paris prosecutor Laure Beccuau warned that punishments could be even more severe, adding that bomb threats would now be considered a form of premeditated “psychological violence”.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Parisien, Ms Beccuau said such an offence was punishable by three years in prison and a 45,000-euro fine. AFP