Air France has suffered a string of worrying attempts to sabotage its planes apparently by radicalised ground staff – including a bid to cut communication between the cockpit and engines – according to French reports.
French intelligence is on tenterhooks after a series of incidents involving Air France planes taking off from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, according to Le Canard Enchainé, the investigative and satirical weekly.
“We have noted numerous anomalies before commercial flights,” a French intelligence source told the paper. “They appear to be attempts at sabotage,” the source is cited as saying, adding that “ten people are currently under surveillance” in the company.
The most worrying, the paper reported, was an apparent attempt to disable the “engine relay” linking the cockpit to the engines on several planes. Thankfully pilots detected the problem after an alarm went off while they were going through their pre-flight check list.
According to Le Canard, an intelligence investigation swiftly led them to the suspected saboteur – a French employee and Muslim convert who “vanished” to Yemen just as agents homed in on him. His wife continues to run a Koranic school near Orly, Paris’ other main airport.
In more “low level” incidents of sabotage, around 40 planes were daubed with “Alahu akbar” (God is great) on the fuel filler flap, causing one pilot to refuse to take off when he detected the graffiti.
Two other employees, acquaintances of the fugitive employee – since fired in absentia – were suspected of sabotaging escape slides in a maintenance hangar. They reportedly remain on the payroll due to lack of evidence.
Other low-level signs of radicalisation include one runway staff member who refused to usher in a plane to its docking bay in August on the grounds that the “captain was a woman”.
In another, Air France discovered that Israel had been wiped off the map on the flight path viewed by passengers on screens from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv via Paris and replaced by “the Gaza strip”. In another, Morocco had been replaced by “Califate”. The company acknowledged “display incoherences”.
At Christmas 2015 on several flights – the first from Paris to Amsterdam – security announcements had been automatically switched to Arabic, according to the paper.
Surveillance of potentially radicalised individuals has also been stepped up at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in the past two years in the wake of a string of terror attacks in France.
“We’re faced with an entryism strategy and we have to watch 90,000 staff in 900 companies (in the airport),” an intelligence agent told Le Canard.
Last November, scrutiny of staff with security clearance to runways found that 73 were suspected Islamic radicals and in some cases on a national watchlist. Their authorisation to sensitive areas was subsequently revoked.
Since Spring, Roissy airport has received intelligence reinforcements with an extra 30 agents joining the ten already in situ. But they reportedly have an even harder time tracking staff at myriad contractors not that are not on site.
Last year, sources close to French intelligence told the Telegraph that French security forces feared there could be a missile strike on a passenger airliner or a September 11-style attack.
H/t reader kevin a.
* * *