Alleged bomb threat on Saturday ends without incident |27 February 2023
Local authority reassures population it is prepared to handle such incidents
The Seychelles International Airport resumed its normal operations at 12.05pm on Saturday after no bomb was discovered on board Russian airline, Aeroflot SU 244, which landed in the country at 9.2am with 246 passengers and crew.
The airport was closed for several hours after the Customs Service of the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority had received a threat through an email at 8.42am, alleging there was a bomb on board the flight.
This prompted the Seychelles Police and the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) to activate its Emergency Operation Centre and deploy around 60 personnel from specialised units to coordinate and handle the threat.
In a press conference at around 2pm, the Commissioner of Police, Ted Barbe, said all protocols were followed as prescribed for such incidents “to be able to eliminate any threats” and said in that instance all the police units including the dog, traffic and scientific investigation units, alongside the aviation security personnel were deployed.
The Commissioner of Police said an initial search on board the plane was carried by the crew members, and this was followed by a more thorough one after all the passengers had disembarked.
“Officers from all units boarded it to search the entire plane, including the luggage compartment and seat but nothing was found,” said Mr Barbe.
The plane, which as part of precautionary measure in such incident, had been advised to park in the spot termed ‘loop’ at the far end of the runway, was then towed to bay two area, closer to the airport.
“No bomb was found, everyone is safe and sound,” said Mr Barbe.
He said it was unclear where the email had emanated from as the address was not linked to a name. However, the investigation continues.
For his part, David Labrosse, the general manager for Safety and Security Regulations for SCAA, who was sitting in for the CEO, Gary Albert, said Saturday’s alleged bomb threat disrupted operations shortly, forcing Turkish airlines to be diverted and Air Seychelles flight to Dubai, to be rescheduled.
“This is a normal procedure to ensure safety of the flights, which is our main priority. We allowed some domestic flights to continue, but with controlled measures. However, we needed to guarantee there were no bomb on board Aeroflot before allowing international flights to land,” explained Mr Labrosse.
He also reassured the population that SCAA in partnership with the police have a “dynamic procedure in place” which was activated on Saturday, and allowed all those concerned to be alerted promptly and to take up their roles.
“The way we handled the situation this morning, (Saturday), is a clear indication that Seychelles is ready to face any eventualities, and we have a very high level of preparedness. We will continue to improve because there are various levels and scopes of threats, and we have to ensure that our officers are up to date with their training, because we do conduct regular training,” said Mr Labrosse.
Also present at Saturday’s press conference was the head of state, President Wavel Ramkalawan, accompanied by the Russian ambassador to Seychelles Artyom Kozhiv.
President Ramkalawan, who had earlier met with the Russian passengers, thanked the local authorities for the way they handled the situation so that normal operations could resume within a short period of time.
“I would like to thank SCAA and the police for the way they handled the situation, so as not to create panic. Everything went according to protocol and was in order. The plane was placed in the ‘loop’ as prescribed in such incidents and the passengers were in total comfort. The Russian ambassador and I had a chance to interact with them,” said the president.
He added that these threats are common around the world and people should not worry. “It is for this reason that our services worked in an efficient way to ensure that the airport could re-open within a short period of time,” added President Ramkalawan.
Ambassador Kozhiv also praised the local authorities for the way the incident was handled as well as the coordination between his government and the local authorities.
“We have seen that the Seychelles police took the situation seriously. As a Russian citizen I am also grateful to the president for getting the chance to meet with the passengers because as you understand with emergency cases, the passengers although okay, were a bit nervous so I am glad the president had a chance to meet them to boost their morale,” said Mr Kozhiv.
“As for our cooperation with the local security services I had to say that it is very effective. Literally five minutes after receiving the information at the embassy we contacted the relevant services and they were very quick to react, very professional. We have seen the emergency centre was set up within minutes. Everyone was there and we had seen brilliant coordination,” said Mr Kozhiv.
Although he said he hopes such situations will never occur, the ambassador said “this is one more proof that the dialogue between the relevant authorities has to continue”.
It was confirmed at the press conference that there are no indication that Saturday’s incident, will disrupt Aeroflot’s flights to Seychelles.
Text & photos by Patsy Canaya