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Flight 804: Body parts found in hunt for crashed plane

By Maggie Michael

Published 21/05/2016

The hunt is continuing for bodies and debris from the EgyptAir plane that fell out of the sky over the Mediterranean Sea as investigators try to determine if the disaster was the work of terrorists.

Search crews have found human remains, luggage and seats from Flight 804, which crashed early on Thursday, and Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister has told relatives of victims that there are no survivors.

With no bodies to bury, relatives and friends of some of the 66 people on board the doomed airliner prayed for the lost, and several mosques around Cairo held what is known as Salat al-Ghaib, Arabic for "prayers for the absent" - a ceremony used when there are no remains.

It is still not known why the Airbus A320, which had been cruising normally on a night-time flight from Paris to the Egyptian capital, suddenly lurched left and then right and plummeted into the sea without issuing a distress signal.

Egyptian authorities said they believed it may have been an act of terrorism, as did Russian officials and some aviation experts, but evidence has yet to emerge and no militant group has accepted responsibility, in contrast to the downing of a Russian jet in October over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people - claimed by Islamic State (IS).

Terror analyst Shiraz Maher, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, said IS had only released a 20-minute video about plans to conquer India and added: "If they had been involved in the crash, it would be very odd for them to have sent that video rather than boasting of the crash."

Three European security officials said the passenger manifest for Flight 804, which was leaked online, contained no names on terrorism watchlists, although Egyptian security officials are continuing to run background checks on those presumed dead.

A French official said investigators had started to check and question ground staff connected to the flight at Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport.

While many suspect the tragedy was the work of terrorists, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insisted there was "absolutely no indication" of what caused the crash.

Some aviation experts said the circumstances suggested a bomb blast, but they added that answers would only come once the plane's wreckage and black box were recovered, although retrieving them may take some time.

The water at the suspected crash site, halfway between Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria and the Greek island of Crete, is between 8,000 and 10,000ft deep. Yesterday brought the first confirmation of debris from the disaster. The Egyptian army said that it had found wreckage approximately 180 miles north of Alexandria, and that it was searching for more. EgyptAir, meanwhile, confirmed that luggage, seats and body parts had been discovered.

France, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Britain have joined the search, which encompasses a wide area of the Mediterranean south of Crete.

Investigators from Egypt, France and Britain as well as from plane manufacturers Airbus will examine everything found in the search, Egypt said.

The country's leader, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's, also issued a statement expressing his condolences to relatives and his "deep regret" for the victims". "God give great mercy and host them in his heaven," he said.

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