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Traces of explosives found on EgyptAir victims, say investigators

This photo taken on May 19, 2016 shows an Egyptair Airbus A330 being taxied at Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airport near Paris after it landed a few hours following the crash of the MS804 Egyptair flight into the Mediterranean. (Photo by AFP)

Investigators say traces of explosives have been found on the remains of victims of an EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in May.

Egypt's Ministry of Civil Aviation said in a statement on Thursday that traces of explosives had been detected on the remains of victims of Flight MS 804 from Paris to Cairo, which plunged into the Mediterranean, killing all 66 people on board.

The statement added that an official investigative committee, which made the discovery, has referred the case to Egypt's state prosecution.

A criminal investigation would now begin into the crash of the Airbus A320, it noted.  

The ministry said that under Egyptian law, state prosecutors would take the investigation over  "if it becomes clear to the investigative committee that there is criminal suspicion behind the accident."

On May 19, a single-aisle Airbus A320 passenger plane operated by Egypt’s flag carrier EgyptAir plunged into the Mediterranean Sea en route to Cairo from Paris.

All 66 people on board were killed. Fifteen French passengers were on board the plane, along with 40 Egyptians, two Iraqis, two Canadians and one passenger each from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

The plane went off radar screens between the Greek island of Crete and Egypt. If the discovered debris proves to belong to the ill-fated airliner, sea currents have carried them about 540 kilometers away from the crash site.

The cause of the crash has remained unclear.

This picture taken on May 21, 2016 shows the debris that the search teams found in the sea after the EgyptAir Airbus A320 crashed in the Mediterranean. (Photo by AFP)

An Egyptian crash investigation committee said audio from the flight deck voice recorder indicated that the pilots had been trying to put out a fire on board before the plane crash.

While recovered wreckage from the plane's front section shows signs of high temperature damage and soot, the data recorder also confirmed that smoke alarms had been activated before the crash.

Egypt's Minister of Aviation Sherif Fathy had said a terrorist attack was the most likely cause of the crash.

The Paris prosecutor's office has already opened a manslaughter investigation into the plane crash but said it was not looking into terrorism as a possible cause of the crash.

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