Body part, passenger belongings of Egypt airliner found (Roundup)

Athens/Cairo, May 20 (IANS) Greece on Friday announced that it found a body part, seats and suitcases from crashed EgyptAir plane, hours after other debris was spotted 290 km north of Alexandria, a Mediterranean port city of Egypt.

A body part, two seats and suitcases from the plane were found by Egyptian rescuers, Greece’s Defence Minister Panos Kammenos confirmed. Greece has been notified about the discovery by the Egyptian authorities, he said in Athens.

“Regarding the outputs of the research, we have been briefed by the Egyptian Joint Rescue Coordination Centre about the discovery of a body part, two seats and luggage at the scene of the search, slightly to the south of where the plane’s signal was lost. That is to the south and east of where the plane was lost, and further north of yesterday’s (Thursday) sighting, that was not confirmed to be debris from the plane,” Kammenos said.

The Egyptian military in its Facebook post said that it detected parts of debris and some of the passengers’ belongings while searching for the aircraft’s black box. It added that naval vessels and military aircraft were continuing the search operation.

The search operation which involves the Egyptian, French, Greek and US navies was intensified on Friday, a day after Egypt’s aviation minister said it was too soon to say why the Airbus A320 flying from Paris to Cairo vanished, but a “terrorist” attack would be a more likely scenario than a technical failure.

The tragedy raised fears of a repeat of the bombing of a Russian passenger jet by the Islamic State group over Egypt on October 31, that killed 224 people.

An anonymous intelligence source said the plane’s flight path and high speed of its descent suggested it “fell like a rock”.

US officials and analysts believe a “catastrophic event” downed the plane, although they did not spell out what it could be.

“All indications are that a catastrophic event took down the aircraft” as it passed over the Mediterranean Sea, they told CBS News, but it was unclear whether a mechanical failure, terror attack or other deliberate act was to blame.

However, Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said: “Let’s not try to jump to the side that is trying to identify this as a technical failure – on the contrary.”

“If you analyse the situation properly, the possibility of having a different action, or having a terror attack, is higher than the possibility of having a technical (fault).”

Mike Vivian, former head of operations at British Civil Aviation Authority, told media on Friday that he thought the plane’s sudden swerves before dropping off the radar screens were more likely to be caused by human interference than by a bomb.

“It looks highly unlikely that this was consistent with some sort of explosive device,” he said. “One’s inclined to go towards the theory that there had been some interference in the aircraft and on the flight deck, with the control of the aircraft.”

Despite widespread speculation that the plane’s disappearance is terror-related, there has been no claim of responsibility.

Egypt President Adbel Fattah al-Sisi offered his condolences to families of those who were aboard the EgyptAir plane.

“With utmost sadness and regret mourns the victims on aboard the EgyptAir flight who were killed after the plane crashed in the Mediterranean on its way back to Cairo from Paris,” a statement on Friday from the president’s office stated.

The US White House also offered its “deepest condolences” over the disaster, which claimed the lives of all 66 people on board.

“At this time we do not yet know definitively what caused the disappearance of Flight MS804,” US White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

“The US stands ready to provide our full support and resources to the governments of Egypt and France as they investigate this incident,” he said.

EgyptAir offered its condolences to the families of passengers in its first admission that they had died.

“EgyptAir expresses condolences to the families of the plane’s victims and expresses its deep sorrow over this tragic accident. The company affirms it will take all measures to handle the situation and will conduct a comprehensive investigation,” Egypt’s national airline said in a statement on Twitter.

The Airbus A320 passenger airliner took off from Paris on Wednesday night at 11.09 p.m. and was expected to land in Cairo on Thursday at 3.15 a.m. It lost contact with the radar at 2.45 a.m.

In March, an EgyptAir domestic flight MS181 from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked in mid-air by one of the passengers and diverted to Larnaca, Cyprus, with 81 people on board. After a six-hour standoff, the hijacker, Seif Eldin Mustafa, freed the passengers and crew, and surrendered to Cypriot police.



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