Russian official: Terror attack downed Egypt jet

A frosted glass partition is seen at the EgyptAir counter at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, France, Thursday, May 19, 2016. EgyptAir said a flight from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar early Thursday morning. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

The latest news on EgyptAir Flight 804 from Paris to Cairo, carrying 66 people, which disappeared early Thursday. (All times are Egyptian.)

3 p.m.

The head of Russia’s top domestic security agency says the crashed Egyptian jet has apparently been brought down by a terror attack. Alexander Bortnikov said on Thursday that “in all likelihood it was a terror attack” causing the crash of the EgyptAir Flight 804 from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board, according to Russian news agencies.

Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service, called for a joint action to track down those responsible for that “monstrous attack.”

Last October, a Russian plane flying from Egypt crashed into the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow said it was brought down by an explosive device

2:50 p.m.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi says the possibility of a terror attack as the cause of the EgyptAir crash is “stronger” than technical failure. Fathi was responding to a reporter’s question during a press conference on Thursday in Cairo.

He said that he doesn’t want draw conclusions but that analysis points to terrorism as a cause with a higher probability.

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2:30 p.m.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said Egypt-Greek search for debris of crashed EgyptAir plane off Greek island of Karpathos is expanding.

Hours after the plane disappeared on Thursday, Fathi told reporters in Cairo that the diameter of the search area will widen, moving further south of the island.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s chief prosecutor Nabil Sadek says he has ordered an “urgent investigation” into crash of EgyptAir plane. Sadek instructed the National Security Prosecutor to open an “extensive investigation” in the incident.

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2:15 p.m.

Greece’s defense minister, Panos Kammenos, says Greece has a submarine on standby which is participating in a NATO exercise about 100 miles (160 kms) away from the presumed crash area, while F-16 fighter jets stationed on Crete could also be used if necessary. The country already has a navy frigate, two military transport planes and a radar plane participating in the search and rescue operation, while he said Egypt had sent a C-130 military transport plane and two F-16s.

France is providing Falcon navy support aircraft, he said, while Greece has contacted the US and Russia, and the American side has offered and Greece has accepted the help of a maritime support aircraft.

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2:00 p.m.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi stresses that Egypt doesn’t rule out any possibilities in the crash of the EgyptAir flight including a “terrorist attack.”

Speaking in a press conference in Cairo, Fathi says that he insists on saying “missing plane” until debris is found.

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1:05 p.m.

Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos says the EgyptAir flight made abrupt turns, suddenly lost altitude just before vanishing from radar shortly after entering Cairo’s air traffic control area of responsibility.

Kammenos said the aircraft was 10-15 miles inside the Egyptian area and at an altitude of 37,000 feet. He says: “It turned 90 degrees left and then a 360- degree turn toward the right, dropping from 38,000 to 15,000 feet and then it was lost at about 10,000 feet,” he said.

Greek civil aviation authorities say all appeared fine with the flight until the time when air traffic controllers were to hand it over to their Egyptian counterparts. The pilot did not respond to their calls, and the aircraft then vanished from radars. Kammenos’ comments are the first indication of what might have happened after the aircraft entered Cairo’s air traffic control space.

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1:00 p.m.

Passengers are preparing to board an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo, hours after an earlier EgyptAir flight on the same route disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea.

Salama Kordeya, a 66-year-old business traveler, shrugged off journalists asking him whether he was comfortable stepping on to the flight.

He tells journalists: “Thousands of car accidents … and we use cars. I’m not afraid.”

Authorities have set up a special crisis center at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for families of passengers of the missing plane.

12:50 p.m.

Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority says traffic controllers’ last communication with the EgyptAir pilot found him in good spirits. Greek air traffic controllers lost contact as the flight headed into the Egyptian area of responsibility.

The Civil Aviation Authority says the flight entered the Greek air traffic control area, or FIR, at 02:24 Greek time (2324 GMT), was identified and approved on its flight course and passed into the next section of air traffic control and was approved by the controller for the exit point of the Greek FIR.

Air traffic controllers tried to contact the pilot again at 03:27 local time for the handover of the plane to Cairo’s area of responsibility, but “despite repeated calls, the aircraft did not respond.”

Air traffic control then called on the emergency frequency and again there was no response. At 03:29, the aircraft was over the exit point of the Athens FIR, and at 03:29.40 it vanished from radar. The Greek authority said the military was asked for help in case the plane could be located on a military radar, but there was no sign of it. Search and rescue operations began at 03:45.

12:35 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande has confirmed the crash of the EgyptAir flight, and says no hypothesis is ruled out or preferred, including an accident or a terrorist act.

Hollande says: “When we have the truth we need to draw all the conclusions.”

12:30 p.m.

The Paris prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the disappearance of the EgyptAir flight.

The prosecutor said in a statement Thursday that its collective accident department opened the investigation with the national gendarme service.

11:55 a.m.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says “nothing is confirmed” regarding the disappearance of the EgyptAir flight and is warning against some unverified information in circulation.

Ayrault, speaking after meeting with families gathered at a hotel at Charles de Gaulle airport, tells journalists the priority is “solidarity” with them and extended a “message of compassion and support.”

10:45

The French military says a Falcon surveillance jet monitoring the Mediterranean for migrants has been diverted to help search for an EgyptAir flight that crashed in the area.

Military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron told The Associated Press that the jet is joining the Egypt-led search effort, and the French navy may send another plane and a ship to the zone.

He said the Falcon was on a surveillance mission as part of EU efforts to monitor migrants crossing the Mediterranean toward Europe.

The French government has offered military help to find the plane, en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared.

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10:35 a.m.

Airbus says the missing Egyptian plane flight was delivered to EgyptAir in 2003 and had logged 48,000 flight hours.

The European plane-maker said in a statement Thursday that the plane had engines made by Swiss-based engine consortium IAE, and had the serial number 2088.

Airbus said it is ready to help authorities investigating the disappearance and said “our concerns go out to all those affected.”

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