Update: Egyptair has retracted its claim that debris found in the Mediterranean was from the airliner. Read the latest
Egypt says it believes terrorism rather than a technical problem is more likely to have caused an Egyptian passenger jet with 66 people on board to crash into the Mediterranean.
EgyptAir flight MS804 vanished en route from Paris to Cairo in the early hours of Thursday morning.
“If you analyse the situation properly, the possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical (issue),” said Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation, Sherif Fathi.
Greek and Egyptian authorities have said that wreckage likely to be from the missing plane has been found.
Earlier, reports quoting the Greek military authorities and Greek media said debris had been discovered close to the island of Karpathos.
The Greek civil aviation ministry also said that “floating material” – likely to be debris as well as life jackets from the EgyptAir plane – had been found. Reuters quoted officials as saying that pieces of plastic and two lifevests had been discovered.
EgyptAir’s vice president gave an interview saying wreckage had been found.
Egypt will lead the official committee investigating the plane’s disappearance, according to the country’s Air Accidents Investigation department.
The committee will also include France. French prosecutors have also opened their own investigation.
EgyptAir flight MS804 was carrying people from multiple nationalities including 30 Egyptians and 15 French nationals. Also on board the Airbus 320 were two Iraqis, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.
The plane departed Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport at 23.09 on Wednesday night heading for Cairo before disappearing from radar in the early hours.
Last moments of Flight MS804
There is some confusion over whether the plane sent a distress signal. The Egyptian military denied having received one.
Greece’s Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the plane made what he called “sudden swerves” mid-air immediately after it entered Egyptian airspace. The plane made an unscheduled rapid descent from 37,000 feet.
Approximately two minutes and forty seconds previously Athens control had tried to contact the plane informing of the communications switch to Cairo air traffic control, but there was no response.
After repeated attempts Athens then tried the plane’s distress frequency, again without reply.
Just over five minutes later search and rescue services were mobilised, and Greece deployed a frigate and military aircraft to participate.
The area where the plane disappeared is a sector busy with shipping and the Greek and US military have been helping the search in the area where the plane lost contact.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it would assist Egypt “as necessary”: under international rules a country can do so if a plane’s engines were manufactured in that state – which is the case here.
The Airbus A320 has a good safety record and the plane which came down is said to have been about 10 years old.
Earlier, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told RTL Radio that France was ruling nothing out as to the possible cause of the plane’s disappearance.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also said it was too early to rule out any explanation.
According to flight tracker24 the Airbus 320 was detected for the last time over the Mediterranean Sea and was ten miles into Egyptian airspace.
There were no weather issues at the time and in the vicinity of the area where the EgyptAir plane went missing earlier this morning, European air traffic network manager Eurocontrol said.
Last year a Russian airliner came down over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, a crash which was blamed on a terrorist attack.
Investigations will be focusing on the previous destinations of Flight MS804. During the past week it had flown to the Eritrean capital Asmara, as well as Brussels, Beirut, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City, Athens, Luxor, Alexandria and Casablanca.
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