Egypt says terrorism not factor in plane crash

Monday, January 5, 2004< /FONT>

CAIRO Egypt has determined that an air crash in which nearly 150 people were killed was not the result of an Islamic insurgency attack.

Instead, Egyptian authorities assessed that the crash of Flash Airlines Boeing 737-300 jet in the Red Sea was the result of a mechanical failure, Egyptian officials said. The charter flight, which contained 148 passengers most of them French tourists and crew, left the Egyptian resort city of Sharm e-Sheik for Paris on Saturday.

"The incident is absolutely not the result of a terrorist act, but is linked to a technical failure of the plane," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said.

On Sunday, the Egyptian Navy was joined by Italian naval ships in the Red Sea for a search for the jet's flight data recorder. France, which has also raised the prospect of a technical failure, has agreed to cooperate in the Egyptian investigation. A team of French aviation experts and a sea patrol plane were scheduled to arrive in Sharm on Sunday.

Officials said the aircraft experienced difficulties at take-off and crashed as the pilot tried to return to the airport at Sharm. They said there was no explosion aboard the 11-year-old plane.

"The aircraft had an ordinary technical failure just after take-off, which caused a loss of control and it crashed into the sea south of the airport of Sharm e-Sheikh," Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafik told Egyptian television. "I hope we can soon determine the causes of the incident in a definitive way, although I repeat that it was the result of a technical failure.

The crash took place amid warnings by Britain and the United States of an imminent attack on civil aviation by Western operatives for Al Qaida.

British authorities have stopped several flights from London to Saudi Arabia and the United States in response to what officials termed specific information of an attack. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family were in Sharm during the airplane crash.

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