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  • September 11 attacks

image source, AFPimage captionThe Rafale fighter (right) and the Airbus were in fact involved in a refuelling exercise

When an Airbus A330 shadowed by a French fighter jet roared at low altitude across the skies near Paris on Saturday, eyewitnesses expressed alarm.

"It sounded like a blast – we didn't know whether it had crashed," a resident told BFMTV, noting that on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US "of course we think about that!"

In fact, the Airbus was involved in a drill, with PM Jean Castex on board.

His office said the Rafale fighter jet had carried out a refuelling exercise.

Footage of the incident was posted online by residents, including this one who expressed concern about "this fighter-jet nonsense".

C’est quoi ce délire d’avion de chasse là

— Maahdi hn 🇱🇧 (@MaahdiHn) September 11, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Mr Castex's office said he was on the Airbus because of "his responsibilities in matters of national defence".

Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly was also on board.

The military plane had recently been used in the evacuation of civilians from Kabul airport in Afghanistan.

The two aircraft landed at Vélizy-Villacoublay air base, south-west of Paris, on Saturday afternoon – just as the 9/11 commemorations were being held across the Atlantic.

BFMTV commented: "In the end, it was just an exercise. People will take their own view about the timing."

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media captionThe sonic boom was heard all over Paris and surrounding areas (September 2020 report)