A 16-year-old was arrested over a bomb hoax near Paris, police sources said on Friday, 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 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 that caused the evacuation of around a thousand pupils.
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.
– ‘Big fools’ –
On Friday, a new slew of threats affected 18 regional airports, 10 of which were evacuated, said Transport Minister Clement Beaune.
“Since Wednesday, we have seen an increase in alerts, false bomb threats in our airports,” Beaune told reporters.
“And I want to say it very clearly, the smart guys or the little jokers who play these games are in fact big fools, even serious offenders,” he said.
Officials said Bordeaux and Beziers in the south were evacuated while others, including Lille in the northeast and Nantes in the west, were able to rule out danger without removing passengers.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said 22 probes had been launched into false alarms.
“There will obviously be convictions. We cannot let this happen,” he told broadcaster RTL. “I remind you that it is the parents who will pay the financial consequences.”
Offenders risk two years in prison and a 30,000-euro ($31,700) 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, Beccuau said such an offence was punishable by three years in prison and a 45,000-euro fine.