An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board crashed in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday. A search for the debris is now underway.
The Airbus A320 was flying at 37,000 feet when vanished from radar screens in Egyptian airspace at 2:45 am local time, aviation officials said.
EgyptAir 804 lost contact with radar after it entered Egyptian airspace, around 280 kilometres off the country’s coastline north of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
Authorities said it was too early to pin point what went wrong.
“We cannot rule anything out,” Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told reporters at Cairo airport on being asked if a terror angle was being probed.
EgyptAir said a “distress call” had been received from the plane two hours after it disappeared from radar. The Egyptian military, however, denied that any distress calls were received.
Egyptian military search and rescue teams are combing the area to locate the debris of the plane, which was carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew members. Greece too has deployed a search aircraft and naval vessels in the operation. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also offered to help in the search.
Apart from 30 Egyptians, there were 26 foreigners including 15 French nationals.
French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting and also spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone and agreed “to closely cooperate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances” surrounding the incident, said a statement that was released in Paris.
In March, another EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked and forced to divert to Cyprus, where the hijacker demanded to see his former wife.
He had claimed he was wearing an explosive vest, which turned out to be fake, and surrendered within hours after freeing the passengers and crew.
In October last year, the Islamic State jihadist group claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian airliner flying home holidaymakers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
The group said it had smuggled a bomb concealed in a soda can on board the plane at Sharm El-Sheikh airport.
(With inputs from agencies)