EgyptAir plane crash most likely caused by terrorism, officials say

French and Egyptian officials suspect terrorism amid confusion over debris

Relatives of passengers and crew of the missing EgyptAir jet waited for news at Cairo airport on Thursday (May 19). Egyptian authorities ushered the families into a closed-off waiting area, but those who emerged from the VIP hall said they had been given no information. Video: Reuters

 

French and Egyptian officials believe terrorism was the most likely cause of the downing of EgyptAir flight MS804 over the Mediterranean yesterday, as confusion emerged last night over whether wreckage discovered southeast of the Greek island of Crete was from the stricken aircraft.

As Egypt launched an official investigation into the disappearance of the Airbus A320, EgyptAir announced that debris from the jet had been found.

However, the head of Greece’s air accident and aviation safety board, Athanassios Binis, later contradicted that claim, saying the debris did not belong to an aircraft.

The aircraft had taken off from Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport at 11.09pm on Wednesday night, and was due to land in Cairo at 3.15am yesterday.

It carried 66 people, all of whom are presumed dead.

The 56 passengers included a little boy and two babies. Thirty were Egyptian; 15 were French. EgyptAir said two Iraqis and citizens of Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Chad, Kuwait, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan were also lost.

A US review of satellite imagery so far has not produced any signs of an explosion aboard the flight , officials from intelligence agencies said.

PLANE


Experts said the distribution of debris could reveal whether the flight was downed by a bomb or crashed whole into the sea.

If it is scattered over a large area, that would tend to indicate explosives were used; if concentrated, the aircraft probably fell intact.

Greek air traffic control last communicated with the pilot over the island of Kea at 2.26am French and Egyptian time.

“The pilot was cheerful and thanked us in Greek,” said Greek civil aviation authority Ypa.

Egyptian airspace

It swerved 90 degrees to the left, then spun 360 degrees to the right before falling from 37,000 to 15,000 feet. Its image was lost at 10,000 feet.   

The French and Egyptian presidents and foreign ministers consulted by telephone.

President François Hollande said the two countries agreed they would “closely co-operate to establish the circumstances” in which the flight crashed.

Although there were no claims of responsibility, speculation focused on a possible attack by Islamic State or another jihadist group. 

Islamic State brought down a Russian charter that took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing 224 people, last October, with a bomb hidden in a soda can. 

Though French, Egyptian and Russian officials alluded to the possibility of terrorism, foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insisted France had no information on the cause of the crash.

Ahmed Hilal (40) was among those who died. The Franco-Egyptian engineer was on his way to Cairo to visit his ailing father.

A 30-year-old man was going to Cairo to get married. Another victim was bound for his mother’s funeral in Sudan.