An Egypt Air Airbus A-320. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Egypt's aviation minister said that a terrorist attack was more likely to have taken down the missing EgyptAir aircraft early Thursday morning than a technical failure.

There were no known security concerns about passengers aboard the missing plane but further checks are underway, he told a news conference.

The minister said, however, that it was still too early to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the plane's disappearance.

Meanwhile, Greek state TV reported that debris of the missing EgyptAir plane had been found south of Greek island of Karpathos in southern Mediterranean.

The EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo has gone missing early on Thursday morning before entering Egyptian air space.  Flight MS804, an Airbus 320, had 56 passengers, including one child and two infants, and 10 crew. 

Egypt's state news agency quoted Prime Minister Sherif Ismail as saying he can't "rule out" any possibility when asked whether a terrorist attack is behind the missing plane. He said there was no "distress call" but there was a "signal" received from the plane. 

Following are the updates as it happened (Dubai time):

5.45 pm: Egyptian civil aviation authorities have not confirmed reports that wreckage found off the Greek island of Karpathos was part of the EgyptAir airliner, state television said.

Greek media reported that objects suspected to belong to the Airbus A320 flight had been found approximately 230 nautical miles south-east of Karpathos.

Earlier in the day, Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation Sharif Fathi said that Cairo would only say the aircraft had crashed when its wreckage is found.

By Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent

4.27 pm: Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, tweets that Flight MS804's disappearance is a terrorist attack. “Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!”


4:07 pm: Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi says: "I'm not ruling out the theory of [a] terrorist attack"  behind the "disappearance" of the EgyptAir plane. But he refused to say to say that the aircraft had crashed. He said search efforts for missing EgyptAir plane focused near Greek island of Karpathos. "We will not use the term 'crash' until the debris of the plane is found," the minister told a press conference. "I call on everyone to stop making predictions. So far, we do not know yet the causes of the plane disappearance."  He added he has no information that any wreckage had been located. "How do you expect us to solve this problem in 7-8 hours?" Fathi defensively asks the media as he was pressed for answers. 

4:05 pm: Fathi says he will not speculate on the disappearance of EgyptAir flight MS804. "Have we found the debris yet?" he asks at a press conference in Cairo. "I'm not denying any theories ... I would like to stress on the right phrase here which is 'missing plane'." 

3.59 pm: "There was no distress call," Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif  Fathi said, stating that earlier government reports of distress call came from  an official who had "misbehaved". “Until we find the debris, the plane remains missing.”

3:48 pm:Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister is speaking at a televised press conference in Cairo. Sherif Fathi has asked the media to stop speculating after several reports stated missing flight MS804 crashed. "Let us stop speculations," he said, adding that the possibility of a terrorist attack cannot be ruled out. "We have no other information other than we have a missing plane."

3.47 pm: Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi has asked the media to stop speculating after several reports stated missing flight MS804 crashed. "Let us stop speculations," he said, adding that the possibility of a terrorist attack cannot be ruled out.

3.45 pm: Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi tells a press conference: "We have no other information other than we have a missing plane." French President Francois Hollande has reportedly said the plane crashed. There were 15 French nationals on board. "All we know we have announced it," Fathi said, "at the moment we are talking about a missing plane ... As far as I'm concerned the plane has not crashed. We haven't found the plane yet." "I'm not here to talk about theories. Until I find the debris of the plane, me personally, but this is my position. I would not use the term the plane has crashed until I find the debris. The probability of a crash is high," Fathi said.

3.06 pm: Greek defence minister: missing #EgyptAir flight MS804 "made two sharp turns".

2.28 pm: French President François Hollande has confirmed that the plane has crashed. In a TV press conference he said “no hypothesis” could be ruled out on the causes of the crash. He also offered help from France in the search for debris.  

2.21 pm: Greece says it has not found EgyptAir trace so far. Greek authorities said on Thursday a search was still underway off a remote Greek island for possible remains of a missing EgyptAir aircraft, with nothing being found. Air and sea assets of the Greek defence ministry were searching south of the island of Karpathos, where the aircraft with 66 people on board is thought to have vanished. "Absolutely nothing has been found so far," a senior Greek coastguard official told Reuters.

2.01 pm: EgyptAir plane crashed off Greek island of Karpathos in Egyptian airspace: Greek airport source.

1.48 pm: Flight MS804 sent a distress signal before communication was lost at about 2:45 am Cairo time, according to the airline. The disappearance of the Paris-Cairo plane follows a string of aviation-related incidents involving Egypt, including a Russian airliner en route from Sharm-el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg that crashed soon after takeoff in October, killing 224. An EgyptAir flight was hijacked to Cyprus in March by a man claiming to be wearing an explosive belt, but later found to be unarmed.

1.44 pm: Egypt's state news agency quotes Prime Minister Sherif Ismail as saying he can't "rule out" any possibility when asked whether a terrorist attack is behind the missing plane. He said there was no "distress call" but there was a "signal" received from the plane.

1.29 pm: The aircraft, which EgyptAir said was manufactured in 2003, took off at 11:09 p.m. in Paris with 56 passengers, 7 crew and 3 security personnel and was traveling at 37,000 feet. It disappeared about 280 kilometers (170 miles) off the Egyptian coast, authorities said. Mid-flight incidents are rare, with most accidents happening in the phase of take-off or landing. 


12.35 pm: EgyptAir said the cause of the disappearance of its Paris-Cairo flight over the Mediterranean on Thursday was still unclear as search teams scoured the waters off the Egyptian coast. "The cause of the airplane's disappearance is not yet known," the airline said in a statement.



12.10 pm: EgyptAir has denied reports that the missing Flight MS804 is confirmed to have crashed. “EGYPTAIR denies all misleading information published by news websites and social media channels regarding the reasons … for the disappearance of EGYPTAIR flight MS804 and the company confirms that the reason of disappearance hasn't been yet confirmed,” the airline said on its Twitter account.

Egypt’s national airline also tweeted that media should be sure “of the information they post or release.” A series of stories come as AFP reports that the flight, carrying 66 passengers and crew, crashed off the coast of Greek island Karpathos in Egyptian airspace. AP earlier reported aviation officials had confirmed the flight crashed. EgyptAir denied that report to Gulf News.


11.56 am: An EgyptAir flight which disappeared from radar screens en route from Paris to Cairo early Thursday, crashed into the sea off the southern Greek island of Karpathos while in Egyptian airspace, a Greece aviation source told AFP. "At around 0029 GMT (3:29 am) when it was in Egyptian airspace, the plane disappeared from Greek radars... it crashed around 130 nautical miles off the island of Karpathos," the source told AFP.

11.51 am: France says 3 security officers were on EgyptAir flight. France's transport chief says there were three Egyptian security officers on the EgyptAir flight that disappeared after leaving Paris for Cairo. Alain Vidalies told reporters Thursday after an emergency government meeting that the plane had seven crew members and three Egyptian security officers, "which is the usual practice." He said the plane was not carrying freight.

11.45 am: Egypt deploys naval ships to search for an EgyptAir Airbus A320 en route to Cairo from Paris.

11.25 am: Egypt army denies detecting distress signal from missing plane.  The Egyptian army has denied it detected any "distress messages" from an EgyptAir flight that vanished over the Mediterranean on Thursday, in a statement posted on its spokesman's Facebook page.

EgyptAir had said it was informed by the military that it detected a "distress message" from the Airbus A320 which was en route from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar screens.

11:20 am: France offers to send military planes and boats to help search for an EgyptAir flight that disappeared en route from Paris to Cairo.  

11.15am: Statement from Airbus: "We are aware of the media reports. At this time we have no further details, but we will provide further information when available."

11.12 am: EgyptAir is not confirming reports that flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo has crashed. AP is reporting that aviation officials have confirmed the flight with 66 passengers and crew on board has crashed and that the search is now focused on finding the debris. “No, we do not have any details concerning a crash,” an EgyptAir spokesperson told Gulf News by text message. “We have no details for the time being about any crash,” the spokesperson added.



11.10 am: Relatives of passengers on a vanished EgyptAir flight start arriving at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, where their loved ones boarded the aircraft. A man and a woman, identified by airport staff as relatives of the flight's passengers, sat at an information desk near the EgyptAir counter Thursday at the airport's Terminal 1. The woman was sobbing, holding her face in a handkerchief. The two were led away by police and airport staff and did not speak to journalists. The French government is setting up a crisis center for relatives at the airport.

10.50 am: Egyptian aviation officials say the EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board has crashed. The officials say the search is now underway for the debris. They say the "possibility that the plane crashed has been confirmed," as the plane hasn't landed in any of the nearby airports. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

10.30 am: The EgyptAir flight 804 sent out a "distress message", according to an AFP report.

10.12 am: Greek air traffic controllers spoke to pilot of missing Egypt Air plane while over Greece, did not report any problems.

10.09 am: EgyptAir list of passengers on board missing flight by nationality: 30 Egyptian, 15 French, 2 Iraqis, and 1 each from UK, Canada, Belgium, Portugal, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Algeria.

10.05 am: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says France is ready to join the search operation if Egyptian authorities request it. Speaking on RTL radio, Valls says the Paris airport authority has opened a crisis center to support the families coming to Charles de Gaulle Airport.

9.55 am: The French government says President Francois Hollande spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi by telephone, and they agreed to "closely cooperate to establish the circumstances" in which the EgyptAir flight disappeared. The government statement cited Hollande as saying he shares the anxiety of families, in a written statement.



9.49 am: Weather conditions in Egypt and over the Mediterranean were said to be good at the time that Flight MS804 disappeared. Airline experts, interviewed on CNN, said the flight path did not cross any areas of conflict. The flight is now more than 4 hours overdue.

9.32 am: Flight MS802 pilot made no distress call before plane vanished, reports Egyptian state newspaper Al Ahram. 

9.28 am: Greece joins search and rescue operation for EgyptAir Flight 804 in southern Meditteranean.

9.15 am: EgyptAir aviation officials believe the missing EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean.

8.49 am: EgyptAir flight 804 made no distress call, vice-chairman of EgyptAir holding company Ahmed Abdel tells CNN; says rescue plane has arrived at coordinates of where aircraft lost contact.

8.51 am: EgyptAir official tells CNN the missing plane carried no special cargo and no notification had been made to the captain of dangerous goods on board.

8.44am: Egyptian aviation officials believe the missing EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea.

8.15 am: The nationalities of the passengers on the missing plane are reported to be mostly Egyptians, with one Saudi, Iraqi, British and French.

7.46 am: Egyptair has confirmed the flight was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two infants, and 10 crew. Earlier, the airline said Airbus A320 Flight MS804 was carrying 59 passengers and 10 crew.

"An official source at EGYPTAIR stated that Flight no MS804, which departed Paris at 23:09 (CEST), heading to Cairo has disappeared from radar," the airline said on its Twitter account.

A later Tweet by EgyptAir said the plane, which was travelling at an altitude of 37,000 feet (11,280 metres), disappeared about 80 miles (130 km) before it was due to enter Egyptian airspace.



According to EgyptAir tweets three security personnel were on board. The pilot had 6,000 flight hours.

The flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo normally takes just over four hours and the plane was due to arrive at 3:05 am local time (5:05 am Dubai time).

According to a Reuter's report, Egypt's civil aviation ministry said search and rescue teams were looking for the missing jet. A ministry source also said technical information about the condition of the plane was being gathered.

Authorities at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris have not yet commented.  

7.28am: EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo has “disappeared from radar” Thursday morning, according to the airline.

Flightradar24.com, which tracks flights, the plane was an Airbus A320 and its last known position was above the Mediterranean Sea.

Helpline: EgyptAir has set up helpline numbers for passengers' relatives. Anyone concerned can call 0800 7777 0000 from any landline in Egypt and +202 259 89320 from any mobile phone or from outside Egypt.