Mysterious drones over Paris spark fears of a new attack
At least five drone sightings over Paris yesterday sparked panic over fears of another terror attack in the wake of the 'Charlie Hebdo' attacks, and a threat by an al-Qa'ida affiliate to target the French capital.
Police spotted the drones flying over sensitive sites in Paris, including the US embassy and the Eiffel Tower, between 1am and 6am early yesterday morning.
The sightings raised tensions in the French capital, which is still on maximum security alert seven weeks after three Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in a series of attacks.
Extra guards have been posted in Paris shopping centres following a threat to target them by al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based affiliate of al-Qa'ida.
The first drone was sighted by police guarding the US embassy near the Champs-Elysées around 1am.
Others were sighted during the night over the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides military museum and the Place de la Concorde, a police source said.
"It could be a coordinated action but we don't know yet," the source said. Police reinforcements were called in but failed to capture the drones or identify those controlling them, the source said.
Last month, a drone flew over the president's official residence, the Elysée Palace, and drones have also been spotted flying over 17 nuclear sites in France.
All the drones spotted were described as standard, small models of pilotless aircraft available commercially, which police say are too light to cause significant damage if crashed into a building, even a nuclear power plant.
However, the sightings have raised public fears that terrorists could find a way to attach explosives or toxic chemicals to the drones.
Operating a drone illegally carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and a €75,000 fine. After the sightings, police said a "working group" of 10 officers specialised in aviation had been set up to develop an approach to unauthorised drone flights.
The drones flew in three stages while the capital was in darkness, said Paris prosecutor's spokeswoman Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre.
Officials with the police, gendarmes and prosecutor's office said it's unclear who was behind the flights and even whether they were all coordinated.
The US Embassy would not comment on the incident.
A small drone crashed on the White House lawn last month, raising American concern about the phenomenon. In France, it is a growing worry after dozens of sightings of mystery drones over nuclear plants and military installations. Investigators have yet to find most of the perpetrators.
Some fear the drones could be spying on technology or could one day be equipped with weapons. Drone operator Jean-Luc Fournier, who has consulted on French drone legislation, said authorised operators condemn such rogue flights because it casts the whole industry in a bad light. (© Daily Telegraph, London)