20231019 prank calls
French officials suggested young people and children may be responsible. (For illustrative purposes only) Image Credit: Pixabay

Paris: France's government is threatening prison terms and heavy fines for callers who make fake bomb threats after a rash of false alarms forced the evacuation of 15 airports and cancellation of 130 flights and shut the doors of Versailles Palace three times in five days.

French officials suggested young people and children may be responsible. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti blamed “little jokers, little clowns” and vowed, “They will be found, they will be punished.”

French law allows prank calls to be punished by up to 3 years' imprisonment and fines of 45,000 euros ($47,000), the minister said. He said minors' parents could be made to pay for damages.

“We don't need this. We don't need troublemakers, psychosis, at this moment,” he said Wednesday.

France has been on heightened alert since the fatal stabbing of a schoolteacher last week that was blamed on a suspected Islamic extremist who allegedly declared allegiance to the Islamic State group.

A funeral service for Dominique Bernard, the French language teacher killed by a knife wound to the neck, was held Thursday in Arras, the northern town where he taught at the Gambetta-Carnot school.

French Transport Minister Clement Beaune said false threats were made against 17 airports on Wednesday, causing widespread disruption, the evacuation of 15 airports, cancellation of 130 flights and many flight delays.

“These false alerts are not bad jokes. They are crimes,” Beaune posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.