Egypt plane crashes in possible terror attack

Relatives of passengers on a vanished EgyptAir flight grieve as they leave the in-flight service building where they were held at Cairo International Airport, Egypt, Thursday, May 19, 2016. Egyptian aviation officials say an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board has crashed. The officials say the search is now underway for the debris. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)


By Maggie Michael, Elena Becatoros ,and Angela Charlton, AP

An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board crashed into the Mediterranean Sea off the Greek island of Crete early Thursday morning, Egyptian and Greek officials said. Egypt’s aviation minister said the crash was more likely caused by a terror attack than technical problems.

Later in the day, an Egyptian search plane located two orange items believed to be from the EgyptAir flight, 230 miles southeast of Crete within the Egyptian area of Flight Information Region, a Greek military official said. One of the items was oblong, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with regulations.

In Cairo, Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi told a news conference that he did not want to prematurely draw conclusions, but that indications suggest a terror attack as more likely cause of the crash.

Answering a reporter’s question on whether a technical failure was behind the crash, Fathi said: “On the contrary … if you thoroughly analyze the situation, the possibility of having a different action or a terror attack, is higher than the possibility of having a technical failure.”

But he cautioned that the truth would not be known before the investigation is concluded. Earlier, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail also said a terror attack could not be ruled out. “We cannot rule anything out,” Ismail told reporters at Cairo airport.

Earlier, Greek defense minister Panos Kammenos said EgyptAir flight 804 made abrupt turns and suddenly lost altitude just before vanishing from radar at around 2:45 a.m. Egyptian time.

Kammenos said the aircraft was 10-15 miles inside the Egyptian FIR, Flight Information Region, and at an altitude of 37,000 feet. “It turned 90 degrees left and then a 360 degree turn toward the right, dropping from 38,000 to 15,000 feet and then it was lost at about 10,000 feet,” he said.

EgyptAir said the Airbus A320 vanished 10 miles (16 kilometers) after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometers (175 miles) off Egypt’s coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. Their account fits closely with an account from Konstantinos Lintzerakos, director of Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority.

The airline said the Egyptian military had received an emergency signal from the aircraft, an apparent reference to an Emergency Locator Transmitter, a battery powered device designed to automatically give out a signal in the event of a sudden loss of altitude or impact.

The Egyptian military denied it had received a distress call and Egypt’s state-run daily Al-Ahram quoted an unidentified airport official as saying the pilot did not send one.