Debris 'not from EgyptAir flight' as Sisi slams probe

Debris 'not from EgyptAir flight' as Sisi slams probe
Investigators are still no closer to finding out what happened to missing EgyptAir Flight 804 after debris found believed to part of the aircraft were proven false.
4 min read
20 May, 2016

Debris found

Debris found during the search for missing EgyptAir Flight 804 does not belong to the aircraft, Greek officials have said.

Pieces of material were found close to the area believed to be the crash site of the flight that went missing en route to the Egyptian capital Cairo, carrying 66 people on board.

EgyptAir had earlier claimed on its Twitter account - referring comments from Egyptian officials - that debris found in the area belonged to the missing aircraft.

This was refuted hours later by Greek officials organising search and rescue operations in the waters off its coast.

"Up to now the analysis of the debris indicates that it does not come from a plane," Athanasios Binis, head of the Greek air safety authority told AFP.

"My Egyptian counterpart also confirmed to me that it was not yet proven that the debris came from the EgyptAir flight when we were last in contact around 1745 GMT."

'Stand corrected'

A senior EgyptAir soon told CNN that he "stands corrected" regarding an earlier claim that lifejackets and pieces of plastic "from the flight" were found floating in the Mediterranean Sea.

"We stand corrected on finding the wreckage because what we identified is not a part of our plane. So the search and rescue is still going on," EgyptAir's Vice Chairman Ahmed Abdel told the US broadcaster.

Lifejackets and abandoned boats litter the eastern parts of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, where the aircraft is believed to have crashed.

We stand corrected on finding the wreckage because what we identified is not a part of our plane.
- Ahmed Abdel, EgyptAir

These remnants are a sad reminder that many vessels used to smuggle refugees - often Syrian - over to Europe from Turkey never make it to shore safely, sinking in the waters off Greece.

"What was found was a piece of wood, and some materials that do not come from a plane," Binis added.

"Based on the available geographical information, we are talking about the same debris."

Search and rescue efforts have been intensified to look for signs of the plane - and it is hoped, but unlikely - survivors.

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Egypt's Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said that although it's too early to speculate, the flight travelling between Paris and Cairo most likely went down due to a "terrorist incident", rather than a technical failure.

Russia's intelligence chief has also claimed that "in all liklihood" the Airbus A320 was the victim of a "terrorist attack".

Usual suspects

There has been no claim yet from likely from chief suspects the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda. The former downed a passenger plane flying over Egypt's Sinai last October with an improvised bomb smuggled onboard the aircraft that took off from Sharm El-Sheikh. 

This incident has led many to believe foul play was involved this time. So has the scant evidence of the aircraft's final moments presented by investigators.

The plane took a sudden erratic course during a normal flight through "good conditions", twice turning sharply before plunging 22,000 feet into the sea.

The pilot and co-pilot did not issue a distress call, making what happened likely a surprise for those commanding the aircraft.

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A sudden mechanical failure, onboard bomb, hijacker, or pilot suicide were likely behind the incident, analysts said.

Egyptian authorities leading the investigation are running background checks on all passengers and crew.

The pilot and co-pilot of the flight have been named by The New York Times as 36-year-old Mohamed Saeed Shaqeer and 24-year-old Mohamed Ahmed Mamdouh.
But Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has demanded that authorities step-up efforts to find the aircraft.

"The president has issued instructions to all concerned state bodies, including the ministry of civil aviation... naval and air forces to intensify the search for the Egyptian plane and to take all necessary measures to find the plane debris," a statement read.

If terrorism is determined as the cause of the crash then the likely suspects will be Islamic State group which operates in the largely lawless Sinai Peninsula.

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- Blog: What causes planes to crash or go missing?

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They have waged a war on the Sisi regime and hundreds of Egyptian troops - and many more civilians - have been killed in clashes, bombings and counter-terrorism operations.

Although Sisi could briefly gain the sympathy of the West if militants are behind the killing of the passengers - including 30 Egyptians - it would bring up questions about his claims that his regime offers Egypt the best chance of security.

It would also counter his the regime's insistence that a hard-line against political opponents is making the country safer.

Meanwhile, relatives of the passengers will have to wait at least another night to find out what happened to their loved ones.