London – A packed holiday jet was forced to make an emergency landing in Kenya after a dummy bomb was found in a toilet.

The Air France flight, carrying 459 passengers and 14 crew, was hours into the journey from Mauritius to Paris when a package with a timer was discovered behind a mirror.

One woman passenger described how she heard it “ticking”. Others on board were said to be so frightened they damaged the doors of the Boeing 777 jet once it landed in Mombasa in a desperate scramble to get out.

Hours later, the device was declared a fake made of cardboard and a kitchen timer. On Sunday night the jet was grounded as investigators continued to hunt for whoever planted it. At least six passengers who had been sitting near the toilet were questioned over the scare. Police are looking at the possibility the device may have been planted immediately after the plane left Mauritius, an Indian Ocean destination popular with Britons. Officers are examining airport security on the holiday island.

A French security source in Paris, which is on high alert after last month’s terror attacks, said the dummy was “rigged up to look like a homemade bomb”. Air France boss Frederic Gagey said it was an “assembly of cardboard and a kitchen timer mechanism” and called the stunt “stupid”.

Flight AF 463 left Mauritius at 9pm local time on Saturday bound for Paris Charles de Gaulle. Hours later a passenger reported the device to the cabin crew, causing the pilots to carry out an emergency landing at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport, where everyone on board disembarked safely.

Passenger John Stephen described the situation as “pretty tense”. Another witness said: “A stewardess told me she had seen the timer behind the toilet mirror, and there was no possible doubt – it was a bomb threat.”

In October a Russian plane carrying 224 passengers was brought down by an IS bomb after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.