AN EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people crashed in the Mediterranean yesterday, with possible wreckage spotted off a Greek island, as investigators probed whether it had been downed by a bomb.
Egypt’s aviation minister said that while it was too soon to say why the Airbus A320 had vanished, a terrorist attack would be a more likely scenario than a technical failure.
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said the plane had fallen 6 700 metres and swerved sharply twice in Egyptian airspace before it disappeared from radar screens.
The incident raised fears of a repeat of the bombing of a Russian passenger plane by the Islamic State jihadist group over Egypt in October that killed all 224 people on board.
Greek authorities said late yesterday that they had found white and blue debris corresponding to EgyptAir’s colours, plus a number of life jackets.
The jet had been flying from Paris to Cairo overnight when it disappeared off radar screens, without sending a distress signal.
French President Francois Hollande confirmed that the plane had crashed and Paris said its accident department had opened an investigation.
Cairo’s state prosecutor also ordered a probe into the incident, signalling suspicion of foul play.
Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said he could not rule out either terrorism or a technical problem.
“The possibility of having a different action on board, of having a terror attack, it is higher than the possibility of having a technical failure,” he said.
Egypt and Greece said they had dispatched aircraft and naval vessels on a search mission and they were expected to be joined by French teams.
Fifteen French citizens were among the 26 foreign passengers, who also included a Briton and a Canadian.
The passengers also included two Iraqis and one citizen from each of Algeria, Belgium, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, as well as 30 Egyptians, the airline said. They included a boy and two babies.
Both France and Egypt have come under attack by jihadists of the Islamic State group in the past year and Hollande promised a full probe of the cause of the crash as suspicions swiftly focused on a bomb.
IS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces and in October claimed the bombing of the Russian airliner flying holidaymakers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El- Sheikh.
EgyptAir said contact had been lost with the flight about 280km from the Egyptian coast.
“It crashed about 130 nautical miles off the island of Karpathos,” an aviation source said, referring to an island northeast of Crete.
Neither the Greek coastguard nor the navy could confirm reports that a passing ship had seen a ball of fire in the sky. – AFP