Frenchman with suspected firearm sparks Gatwick alert

14th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

A 41-year-old Frenchman was arrested at Gatwick Airport Saturday with what appeared to be a firearm, British police said after a security alert triggered an evacuation of the busy London hub.

"Police were called at around 9.30am (0930 GMT) following suspicious actions by a man who discarded an item in a bin at the airport," Sussex Police said in a statement.

"A 41-year-old man from Vendome in (central) France was arrested at the scene at the time of the report on suspicion of firearms offences," the statement said.

"Personal items and what appears to be a firearm were recovered and have been removed for forensic examination. However, the viability of the weapon has yet to be established," it added.

Detective Superintendent Nick May said: "The man is being interviewed as we try to determine the circumstances of the incident, but at this time it is too early to say what his intentions, if any, were."

"However, given the events in Paris on Friday evening, there is heightened awareness around any such incident and it is best that we treat the matter in all seriousness," he said.

Islamic State jihadists on Saturday claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 128 people in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium.

Bomb disposal experts conducted a small controlled explosion after the North Terminal was temporarily evacuated, police said.

The terminal was later re-opened.

Gatwick is one of Britain's busiest airports, handling 39 million passengers travelling to 200 destinations every year and is the biggest hub for British low-cost airline EasyJet.

"The safety of our passengers and crew is EasyJet's highest priority," the company said in a statement.

"We are working with the airport and the authorities to assess the situation and any potential impact on our operations," it said, asking passengers to check the status of their flights online.

British security services are on high alert following the attacks on a rock concert, restaurants and national football stadium.

Britain's Foreign Office earlier updated its travel advice for British nationals in France, urging them to "exercise caution in public places and follow the advice of the local authorities".

Eurostar services between London and Paris were running as usual on Saturday, despite initial concerns that French borders would be closed following the attacks.

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© 2015 AFP

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