Egyptian investigators split on EgyptAir explosion claims

Egyptian investigators split on EgyptAir explosion claims
Allegations that an explosion brought EgyptAir Flight 804 have been denied by the head of the Egypt's forensic authority just hours after an investigator said this scenario is most likely.
3 min read
24 May, 2016
Pieces of the wreckage and bodyparts are being found close to the crash site [Anadolu]
The head of Egypt's forensic authority tasked with investigating the disapearance of EgyptAir Flight 804 has denied reports from a member of his team that a mid-air explosion likely took place.

"Everything published about this matter is completely false, and mere assumptions that did not come from the forensics authority," said Hesham Abdelhamid told Egyptian state news.

Another official told Reuters that only a small among of physical evidence had arrived to investigators in Cairo, and that it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash.

Rumours emerged that a mid-air explosion brought down the flight came after an anonymous official said that body parts retrieved from the crash site suggested a mid-air explosion over the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Around 80 pieces of human remains have been sent to Cairo for studies so far. But the fact that the body parts are small led one investigator to tell press that he believed an onboard explosion was likely for the tragedy.

"The logical explanation is that an explosion brought it down," an Egyptian official from the investigation team told the Associated Press.

"There isn't even a whole body part, like an arm or a head," said the official, adding that one piece was the left part of a head. "But I cannot say what caused the blast," he said.

Another unnamed Egyptian investigator told Egyptian daily al-Watan that all the parts are "no larger than the size of an hand".

Families of the victims have arrived at the Cairo morgue to give DNA evidence which should help identify the deceased. Some have already started funerals for their loved ones.

Meanwhile, Egypt despatched a submarine to the crash site, as part of international efforts to uncover the wreckage.

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Earlier on Tuesday, Egyptian officials also said that the plane did not "swerve" before disapearing, as was previously believed. This would also point to an explosion rather than a mid-air technical malfunction.

Egyptian and European officials and security chiefs have already said that it is likely that "terrorists" were responsible for the downing of the flight.

The Airbus 320 was travelling between Paris and Cairo in the early hours of 19 May when it vanished from the radar with 66 people on board.

Chief among the suspects of a possible terrorist attack would be the Islamic State group. They are active in parts of Egypt's Sinai region, and claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian airliner last year, killing all 224 passengers and crew.

IS, however, has not claimed responsibility for the EgyptAir crash.

Cairo is leading the investigation and on Monday requested flight data from France to help uncover clues. The public prosecution team have also asked Greece for information they have on the flight, with the crash site located off its shores.

Agencies contributed to this report