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Still few answers in EgyptAir crash — and no claim of responsibility

Coptic Christians attend prayers for the departed, remembering the victims of EgyptAir flight 804 at Al-Boutrossiya Church in Cairo, Egypt, on May 22, 2016.
Coptic Christians attend prayers for the departed, remembering the victims of EgyptAir flight 804 at Al-Boutrossiya Church in Cairo, Egypt, on May 22, 2016.
(Amr Nabil/Associated Press)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi urged patience Sunday as the search for the wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 804 concluded a third day with scant progress. Government investigators said it would be a month before they would release preliminary findings.

Egyptian officials, who speculated following the crash that terrorism was the likely cause, have sounded a more cautious note in subsequent days since no militant group has claimed responsibility and Egyptian military units have recovered only bits of debris and human remains from the sea.

“All scenarios are possible,” Sisi said at the opening of a fertilizer factory in Damietta, in northern Egypt.

“I must thank the armed forces, the navy and countries that have stood by us and have assisted in the search.”

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The Egyptian petroleum ministry dispatched a submarine to the Mediterranean to aid in the search for the “black box” recorders from the Airbus A320 jet, which are believed to have sunk to the sea floor since the crash Thursday morning.

Relatives and friends of EgyptAir hostess Yara Hani, who was on board Flight 804 from Paris to Cairo when it plunged into the Mediterranean, mourn during a ceremony in Cairo on May 21, 2016.
Relatives and friends of EgyptAir hostess Yara Hani, who was on board Flight 804 from Paris to Cairo when it plunged into the Mediterranean, mourn during a ceremony in Cairo on May 21, 2016.
(STR/AFP/Getty Images )

As funerals were held across Cairo for Egyptian victims of the crash, Ayman El-Moqadem, head of the government-appointed investigation committee, said an initial report into the incident would be completed within a month, according to a report in the state-run Ahram newspaper.

The mystery over the plane – which crashed with 56 passengers and 10 airline personnel aboard en route from Paris to Cairo – has deepened since U.S. and Egyptian officials first speculated Thursday that a mechanical failure could not have caused the accident.

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The airliner, which Egyptian authorities have said had a clean safety record, was cruising at 37,000 feet when radar showed it suddenly veered left, made a full turn to the right and dived into the sea. Aviation experts said the information suggested a catastrophic failure that was unlikely to have been caused by those flying the aircraft.

French civil aviation authorities reported Saturday that automatic messages sent from the aircraft indicated smoke in the cabin shortly before it lost radar contact at 2:30 a.m. Thursday. But authorities said it was not possible to determine what caused the smoke.

Moqadem, speaking to Ahram newspaper, declined to comment on the reports.

Attention initially focused on Islamic State, the militant group that has a branch in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, because the group claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Russian passenger jet that crashed in the Sinai in October. But a 31-minute recorded statement released Saturday by an Islamic State spokesman, Abu Mohammed Adnani, made no mention of the EgyptAir crash.

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Special correspondent Omar El Adl contributed to this report.

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

Twitter: @SBengali


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