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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 December, 2003, 00:20 GMT
Terror fear hits Paris-LA flights
Air France jumbo
US officials were concerned by names on passenger lists
Air France has cancelled six flights between Paris and Los Angeles amid fears of a terror attack.

The French prime minister ordered the move after US intelligence suggested al-Qaeda members posing a "credible threat" were due to board.

The cancelled services were to fly between Charles de Gaulle airport and Los Angeles on Wednesday and Thursday.

Hours later, the Delta Airlines terminal at New York's LaGuardia Airport was evacuated in a scare.

CANCELLED FLIGHTS
24 Dec: AF068 Paris 13.35
24 Dec: AF070 Paris 19.00
24 Dec: AF383 LA 08.30
24 Dec: AF069 LA 19.00
25 Dec: AF068 Paris 13.35
Sixth unconfirmed flight
All times are local
Source: Air France website
Hundreds of passengers have been left stranded by the Air France cancellations over the Christmas period.

An official at the US Department of Homeland Security said they had detected a "credible threat" from al-Qaeda operatives due to board a flight from Paris to Los Angeles.

The BBC's Matt Frei in Washington said US security sources indicated they had alerted the French authorities after scouring the passenger lists.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said the request was due to intelligence "gathered in the framework of Franco-American co-operation in the fight against terrorism".

His spokesman said there were "two or three" names passed to them, but none of those people went through airport security checks and no arrests were made.

'At large'

US Homeland Security officials are reported to be upset that the flights were cancelled so publicly.

Unfortunately now these individuals can still carry out this type of attack
Walter Purdy, terrorism expert
An unnamed official told the Associated Press news agency security forces had been "hoping that we would be able to lure some of these people in".

Terrorism expert Walter Purdy, of the Terrorism Research Center in the US, told BBC News the intelligence could have been better used to arrest the suspects at the airport.

He said: "The idea is here we had some credible information about a threat, but unfortunately now these individuals can still carry out this type of attack, though not on Air France or out of Paris."

LA airport
Passengers at Los Angeles endured rigorous baggage checks
In another security incident, the Delta Airlines terminal at New York's LaGuardia Airport was evacuated on Wednesday night after a woman passenger set off a metal detector and continued into the airport.

The terminal was reopened a short while later.

A huge security operation was also mounted at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

Police stopped drop-offs from private vehicles at terminals, amid fears of a terror attack.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn called the restrictions "a precautionary measure during a period of heightened readiness".

On Sunday, the US Government raised the national threat level from Elevated to High Risk of terrorist attack.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Prodger
"Air France cancelled three return flights to LA at the request of America"



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