BANGOR – A potential terrorist managed to slip through airport security in Paris and was headed straight for Boston on Thursday – or so federal authorities thought.

An Air France flight bound for Logan Airport was diverted to Bangor International Airport Thursday afternoon because U.S. authorities learned that a passenger’s name and date of birth was included on the federal no-fly list.

But they had the wrong man.

After removing the passenger from Flight 332, along with a woman and two children he was traveling with, authorities determined it was a case of mistaken identity. The man had the same name and date of birth of a suspected terrorist, but apparently not the same intentions, they said.

“The individual in question was deemed admissible into the U.S.,” said Leah Yoon, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, on Thursday. “[He] and his traveling companions have been allowed to continue on to their destination.”

Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, supported the decision by the Transportation Security Administration to divert the Airbus 330, Yoon said.

The plane, carrying 169 passengers, landed at 2:30 p.m. and departed less than two hours later without the individual in question or his family members, Airport Director Rebecca Hupp said Thursday.

“None of the other passengers were deplaned,” she said.

Federal officials would not release the names of any of the detainees Thursday.

Passengers were informed by the pilot in mid-flight that the plane was being diverted to Maine, said passenger Bill Silveira, 49, of Lakeville, Mass. When he asked a flight attendant what was going on, she said there was someone on the jet who was not supposed to be, he said.

The family appeared calm and left the plane peacefully with federal authorities, according to a passenger who described seeing one man traveling with a woman, a 5-year-old child and an infant. The family appeared of Indonesian or Indian descent, according to Valentine Breus, a Russian traveling to Maine to visit his son, Sergei Breus of Blue Hill.

“He said [there] was no resistance and no emotions,” said Sergei Breus, translating for his father. “No talking, no nothing.”

From his seat two rows away from the family, Valentine Breus and his wife, Alexandra Breus, watched as authorities removed the family’s bags and escorted them off the plane with no use of force.

“They didn’t hold them,” Sergei Breus said on behalf of his father. “The security people just picked up the luggage.”

Valentine Breus recalled nothing unusual about the flight, except that it departed from Paris nearly an hour late, Sergei Breus said.

Authorities are working with Air France to determine why the man was issued a boarding pass at Charles de Gaulle Airport, according to Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration in Boston.

U.S. law requires airlines to transmit to the Homeland Security Department the passenger lists for flights bound for the United States within 15 minutes of takeoff. Officials at the Customs Service’s National Targeting Center check the names against terrorist watch lists.

Foreign airlines are also supposed to check the passengers’ names against the no-fly lists given to them by the U.S. government.

Thursday’s diversion was not the first time a plane has rerouted to Bangor as a result of the no-fly list, said the airport director.

“We’ve had three, if not four, flights diverted to Bangor because of the no-fly list,” Hupp said. All of those flights originated outside the United States, usually in Europe, Hupp said.

As the last major U.S. airport for planes headed across the Atlantic and the first for incoming flights, BIA is accustomed to handling diverted flights, she said.

“I would not say that it’s routine, but it’s not uncommon,” she said, adding that no extra staff was needed to handle Thursday’s diversion.

Since September, when a London-to-Washington flight carrying the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was diverted to Bangor, the airport has handled one or two diverted flights, Hupp said.

A gap in the airline passenger-check system permitted Yusuf Islam – the name the singer took after converting to Islam – to board the flight to the United States despite being on a no-fly list for suspected ties to terrorists.

He has strongly denied the claim.

In Washington, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins cited Thursday’s diversion as a reason for their concerns over a proposal by the FAA to shut down BIA’s control tower between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m.

“Today’s actions by the Department of Homeland Security to redirect a flight to Bangor are yet another reason why the FAA should not close Bangor Airport’s control tower,” Snowe said in a press release Thursday.

“I contacted the FAA today to make sure that they understand how essential Bangor Airport is to our nation’s national security.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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