Daily Egyptian

Wreckage from EgyptAir Flight 804 found in the Mediterranean

By Shashank Bengali, Los Angeles Times

CAIRO — The Egyptian navy has located wreckage from the missing EgyptAir Flight 804 in the Mediterranean Sea 180 miles north of the coastal city of Alexandria, a military spokesman said Friday.

A statement by the Egyptian armed forces said the debris included belongings of passengers aboard the Airbus A320 aircraft, which lost radar contact early Thursday, four hours into a flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people aboard.

The items could provide the first clues to what happened to the aircraft, which plunged into the Mediterranean suddenly under clear skies about 140 miles south of the Greek island of Crete.

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Investigators believe that terrorism was the likely cause of the crash, but have not ruled out a technical failure.

The announcement confirmed that the aircraft had crashed and that all 56 passengers, seven crew members and three airline security personnel likely had not survived. EgyptAir tweeted a message of condolence to the families of the victims, saying it “deeply regrets this tragic accident.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi issued a statement expressing “great grief and deep sorrow” over the discovery.

“The presidency offers its sincere condolences and solace to the victims’ families, praying God the almighty to embrace them with his mercy,” Sisi said.

Sisi added that “investigations are continuing to unravel the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate incident and to establish the truth and the causes of the crash.”

Ships from five countries were deployed in the waters between Greece and Egypt, with the relatively calm conditions of the Mediterranean expected to help recovery teams locate wreckage. The focus of the search, however, was in the deepest parts of the sea, where the ocean floor lies about 10,000 feet below the surface.

“The searching, sweeping and retrieval process is under way,” the Egyptian military statement said.

Authorities continued to refrain from speculating publicly on possible culprits. Islamic State, the terror organization that has a branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, is seen as a possible suspect because the group claimed it brought down a Russian passenger jet that crashed in the Sinai last October, killing 224 people on board.

No group has claimed responsibility for the crash of Flight 804.

EgyptAir said Egypt’s civil aviation minister, Sherif Fathi, had appointed a committee to investigate the crash, led by Ayman El-Moqadem, the official who is also leading a probe into the Russian Metrojet incident. That probe has been criticized in some quarters for failing to produce findings after more than six months of inquiry.

On Thursday evening, EgyptAir said wreckage from the missing plane had been found near the Greek island of Karpathos, but later retracted the statement after Greek officials said the debris did not belong to Flight 804.

Of the 56 passengers aboard, 30 were Egyptians, 15 were from France, two from Iraq and one from Britain, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria, Kuwait and Canada. The passengers also included two babies and a child.

(Special correspondent Amro Hassan in Cairo contributed to this report.)

(c)2016 Los Angeles Times

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