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Family on Air France flight freed

From CNN Correspondent Kathleen Koch

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Air France Flight 332 touches down in Bangor after its diversion.
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(CNN) -- U.S. authorities have released a passenger and his family detained after their transatlantic Air France flight was diverted to Maine Thursday afternoon when the man's name matched one on the U.S. "no-fly" list, federal officials said.

Air France Flight 332 from Paris to Boston was diverted to Bangor, where the man was removed from the plane for questioning along with his wife and two children. The flight, which had 169 passengers on board when it left Paris, continued to Boston after a 1-hour, 40-minute delay.

A federal official told CNN that the man's date of birth matched that of a person on the watch list, and the names were a "nearly exact match." But he was allowed to continue on his way Thursday evening after being questioned, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told CNN.

Asked about an earlier comment from a federal official that the man was held for a visa violation, a spokesman for the border control agency declined comment.

Passenger manifests are transmitted to U.S. authorities shortly after take-off, and Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Yolanda Clark said the airline "missed the fact that this passenger was a positive match."

But Air France, in a written statement, said it was "fully compliant with U.S. authorities."

"The safety and security of our passengers are our highest priority," the airline said. "We will make every effort to ensure our passengers reach their final destination with minimal inconvenience."

Bangor International Airport Director Rebecca Hupp said the flight was the fourth jetliner diverted to her facility since the no-fly list was established after the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

"Bangor, Maine, is the first point of entry into the U.S. from Europe," Hupp said. "So because of our geographic location, Bangor becomes a natural diversion point."

In one incident, in September 2004, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens was taken off a flight from London to Washington after his current name appeared on the watch list.

Stevens, who took the name Yusuf Islam when he converted to Islam in the 1970s, said he had no affiliation with terrorism. But U.S. government officials said he had contributed to charitable groups that supported terrorist organizations.

-- CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report.


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