The names of six passengers sounded similar to those of terrorist suspects provided by the FBI, prompting the French government to ground the planes, the official said on condition of anonymity.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy refrained from criticizing the United States when asked whether American intelligence had provided erroneous information that led to the cancellations. "I don't think there are systematic errors. We are exchanging passenger lists," Sarkozy said. "There are problems of people who share the same name.
FBI officials said Friday that some of the intelligence that led to cancellations of the Air France flights involved a terror plot involving a Tunisian who is named on the U.S. master terror watch list, The Associated Press reported from Washington.
A name similar to the Tunisian’s appeared on the manifest of one of the flights, but turned out to be a youth, FBI officials said. Interrogations of five other people with names that concerned the FBI turned up nothing sinister, according to French police officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
‘‘We had a name connected with terror plot, and it showed up on the manifest, and we didn’t have a full biographical information, so we take those precautions until you can assure yourself things are O.K.,’’ a senior FBI official said.
French officials said errors in spelling and transcription of Arabic names played a role in the mix-up.