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  EgyptAir wreckage found at sea

EgyptAir wreckage found at sea

Published : May 21, 2016, 6:33 am IST
Updated : May 21, 2016, 6:33 am IST

An imam consoles film director Osman Abu Laban (right), who lost four relatives in the plane crash, following prayers for the dead in Cairo. (Photo: AFP)


An imam consoles film director Osman Abu Laban (right), who lost four relatives in the plane crash, following prayers for the dead in Cairo. (Photo: AFP)

Egypt found wreckage including seats and luggage on Friday from the EgyptAir plane that crashed in the Mediterranean, as investigators tried to unravel the mystery of why it swerved and plummeted into the sea.

Search teams spotted personal belongings of passengers and parts of the Airbus A320 about 290 kilometres north of Egypt’s coastal city of Alexandria, the military said.

The country’s aviation minister said a “terrorist attack” was a more likely cause than technical failure for the plane’s disappearance on a flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board.

But French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said there was “absolutely no indication” of why the plane came down.

“We’re looking at all possibilities, but none is being favoured over the others,” he said.

The tragedy raised fears of a repeat of the bombing of a Russian passenger jet by the ISIS jihadist group over Egypt in October 2015 that killed all 224 people on board.

In Cairo, French and Airbus investigators were to meet their Egyptian counterparts to lay the groundwork for their probe.

Relatives of some of the passengers and crew met EgyptAir officials and later gathered at a hotel near Cairo airport to exchange information.

“They haven’t died yet. No one knows. We’re asking for God’s mercy,” said a woman in her 50s whose daughter had been on board.

The plane disappeared between the Greek island of Karpathos and the Egyptian coast in the early hours of Thursday, without its crew sending a distress signal.

It had turned sharply twice in Egyptian airspace before plunging 22,000 feet and vanishing from radar screens, said Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos.

A multi-national operation involving aircraft and ships has been launched to find the plane.

On Friday Mr Kammenos said Egypt had told Greece that search teams had found “a body part, two seats and one or more items of luggage” in waters north of Alexandria.

Other search aircraft had “allegedly reported more findings in another area, but currently we have no official confirmation that they belong to the plane in question.”

Later the European Space Agency said one of its satellites had on Thursday spotted an oil slick about 40 kilometres southeast of the plane’s last known location.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had demanded an “intensified search” after the airline retracted a statement that wreckage had been found.

French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that it was clear the plane had crashed, and authorities in both Paris and Cairo opened investigations.

Fifteen French citizens, a Briton and at least one Canadian were among 26 foreigners on the plane.

Both France and Egypt have come under attack by ISIS jihadists in the past year, and Mr Hollande promised a comprehensive investigation.

ISIS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces.

In October, an Airbus A321 operated by Russia’s Metrojet broke up over the Sinai desert after taking off from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all on board in an attack that ISIS claimed.

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said it was “too early to definitively say what may have caused this disaster”.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said it appeared to be “yet another terrorist attack,” adding “When will we get tough, smart and vigilant ”

Location: Egypt, Kairo, Cairo