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  ‘Terror, not technical fault, likely reason for crash’

‘Terror, not technical fault, likely reason for crash’

AFP
Published : May 20, 2016, 3:51 am IST
Updated : May 20, 2016, 3:51 am IST

A relative of a passenger who was flying aboard EgyptAir Flight MS804 cries as family members are transported to a gathering point at Cairo airport. (Photo: AFP)

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A relative of a passenger who was flying aboard EgyptAir Flight MS804 cries as family members are transported to a gathering point at Cairo airport. (Photo: AFP)

An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people crashed in the Mediterranean on Thursday with possible wreckage spotted off a Greek island, as investigators probed whether it was downed by a bomb.

Egypt’s aviation minister said that while it was too soon to say why the Airbus A320 had vanished, “a terrorist” attack would be a more likely scenario than a technical failure.

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the plane had fallen 22,000 feet and swerved sharply twice in Egyptian airspace before it disappeared from radar screens.

The incident raised fears of a repeat of the bombing of a Russian passenger plane by ISIS over Egypt October 2015 that killed all 224 people on board.

A Greek military spokesman said an Egypt C-130 plane had spotted floating objects that could be debris from the crash, and ships were en route to investigate.

The jet had been flying from Paris to Cairo overnight when it disappeared off radar screens, without sending a distress signal.

French President Francois Hollande confirmed that the plane had “crashed” and Paris said its accident department had opened an investigation.

Cairo’s state prosecutor also ordered a probe into the incident, a statement said, signalling suspicion that foul play could have caused the crash.

Egypt’s aviation minister Sherif Fathy said he could not rule out either terrorism or a technical problem. “I don’t deny the hypothesis of a terrorist attack or something technical. It is too early,” he told a news conference, adding that no wreckage had been found.

“The possibility of having a different action onboard, of having a terror attack, it is higher than the possibility of having a technical” failure, he added.

Egypt and Greece both said they had dispatched aircraft and naval vessels on a search mission and they were expected to be joined by French teams.

Fifteen French citizens were among the 26 foreign passengers on the EgyptAir flight, who also included a Briton and a Canadian. The passengers also included two Iraqis and one citizen from each of Algeria, Belgium, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, as well as 30 Egyptians, the airline said. They included a boy and two babies.

Both France and Egypt have come under attack by jihadists of ISIS in 2015 and Mr Hollande promised a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the crash as suspicions swiftly focused on a bomb.

“Whether it was an accident or another hypothesis that everyone has on their mind — a terrorist hypothesis... at this stage we must focus on our solidarity with the families and the search for the causes of the catastrophe,” he said in a televised address.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has deployed a long range P-3 Orion surveillance plane to help search for the wreckage of the EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday, officials said.

Location: Egypt, Kairo, Cairo