Terrorism not excluded in crash of EgyptAir jet, search continues

An EgyptAir jet airliner carrying 56 passengers and a crew of 10, en route from Paris to Cairo, might have been downed by a terrorist attack on Thursday, and search for the missing jet is still underway, Egyptian authorities said.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to rule out any explanation for the crash, including a similar attack that a Russian airliner has been downed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last year.

The Airbus A320 vanished 10 miles (16 km) after it entered Egyptian airspace at 2:45 a.m. local time in Cairo (0045 GMT) on Thursday with 66 people aboard, including 30 Egyptians, 15 French and citizens form 10 other countries.

Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said a terrorist attack was more likely than a technical failure.

In remarks quoted by media reports, Russian security official Alexander Bortnikov said, “In all likelihood it was a terror attack” that caused EgyptAir Flight 804 to crash into the Mediterranean early Thursday.

However, several U.S. officials reportedly said that a U.S. review of satellite imagery so far had not produced any signs of an explosion aboard the EgyptAir flight.

Those officials, who preferred to be anonymous, said their conclusion was the result of a preliminary examination of imagery and cautioned against media reports suggesting that the United States believed a bomb was responsible for the crash.

On Thursday, U.S. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told local reporters that the Egyptian jet might have been downed by a bomb previously placed on the plane.

Though it will remain unclear what has happened until the plane’s black boxes are recovered, there are early clues pointing to a possible terrorist attack, McCaul was quoted by a Hill news daily report as saying.

“Obviously, there are concerns of terrorism,” said McCaul, “That plane, from what I understand, was in Cairo, Tunis and Paris so it could have possibly been an inside job at the Paris airport or a bomb could have been placed on the plane prior to this.”

On the ongoing search efforts, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has ordered the Civil Aviation Ministry, the army’s search and rescue center, the navy and the air force to take all necessary measures to locate debris from the aircraft.

He has also ordered an investigation committee formed by the Civil Aviation Ministry to immediately start investigation of the causes of plane’s missing.

Both Egypt and Greece are still searching for remains of the missing plane. They were expected to be joined by French teams, while the United States has sent a surveillance plane to help with the operation.

France’s air accident investigation agency BEA said on Thursday that it is sending three experts “in the coming hours” to help establish the causes of EgyptAir plane’s disappearance.

Early Friday, Egyptian authorities denied finding the wreckage of the missing flight, saying early information was attributed to a translation mistake of EgyptAir’s press release.

An EgyptAir source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Arabic version of a press statement on the “possibility of finding parts of the missing airplane” was mistakenly translated into English by EgyptAir’s official Facebook page, which caused “confusion.”

“In the Arabic version, we only spoke about the possibility that the objects found might belong to the airplane,” the source said.

Earlier on Thursday, EgyptAir said the Egyptian Foreign Ministry had confirmed to the Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry that wreckage of the missing airplane was found near the Greek Island of Karpathos.

However, those reports were shortly denied by Greek officials who said the objects they found during the ongoing search operations do not belong to the Egyptian aircraft. (Xinhua)