As Egypt’s tourism industry is trying to recover from a terror-related air crash in 2015, the crash of flight 804 has dealt another setback to the country’s efforts.
The EgyptAir jet was carrying 66 people when it crashed Thursday as it approached Cairo on a flight from Paris.
Egypt's army said it found debris from the EgyptAir jet in the Mediterranean Sea. Recovery teams continue the search for wreckage.
Egyptian officials have raised the possibility that the crash might have been terrorism in a possible repeat of events last year.
Egyptian Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazoua talks to journalists at the scene of an knife attack that injured three tourists, in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egypt, Jan. 9, 2016.
It would be the third terror attack against foreign visitors in Egypt in the last 12 months if terrorism is found to be the cause of the crash.
Egypt’s economy is highly dependent on tourism. The World Travel and Tourism Council says tourism makes up 11 percent of the country’s economy.
Russians visit Egypt the most, with Britons and Germans being the next largest groups of visitors, according to the website Euromonitor.
Yet tourism fell four percent last year and is expected to decline by the same amount in 2016, the World Travel and Tourism Council says.
In late October 2015, a Russian plane leaving the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh crashed, killing 224 people. A local branch of Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for bringing down that plane.
Afterwards, both Russia and Britain suspended flights to the popular resort area. That incident was another major blow to Egypt’s tourism industry. Once a major source of income, tourism in Egypt has been declining since 2011.
That year, a popular uprising led to the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak. The elected government of Mohammad Morsi of the once-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood replaced Mubarak’s in 2012.
But Morsi clashed with Egypt’s military and was himself was removed from office the next year and put on trial for abuse of power. He is awaiting sentencing.
Too Early to Know if Terrorism Cause Crash
The latest air crash threatens Egypt’s efforts to improve security and bring back foreign visitors.
Because the flight started in Paris, three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo one day after the crash. They are to aid in the investigation.
France’s foreign minister on Friday rejected comments that terrorism is to blame for the crash of the EgyptAir flight. He said there is “absolutely no indication” as to what brought down the plane.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (center) arrives at Charles de Gaulle airport's Mercure hotel where passenger relatives have been met by EgyptAir representatives.
On French television, Jean-Marc Ayrault said, "We're looking at all possibilities, but none is being favored over the others."
However, Egyptian Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said France would be responsible for any security lapse if terrorism is found to be the cause of the crash. He again offered the theory that terrorism is more likely than mechanical problems as a possible cause of the crash. However, he said no group claimed responsibility for the crash.
Egypt in Fight Against Extremists
The air crash takes place as Egypt combats extremism in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt’s military is carrying out operations against Islamic State fighters in that area, according to the top U.S. general.
General Joe Dunford is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told a small group of reporters Thursday that, “The Egyptians are taking the fight to the Islamic State (IS) right now.”
Dunford said he was looking forward to hearing the results of Egypt’s ongoing operations in the Sinai. He was unable to provide further details.
The U.S. estimates the number of IS fighters there to range from the hundreds to about 1,000.
The general said there also is a “sizable Bedouin insurgency” in the Sinai that has cooperated with IS fighters.
The Sinai is an isolated territory. Egypt’s military is positioned to the West and Israel’s military is to the East.
The U.S. military says it sees connections between fighters in the Sinai and Islamic State militants across the Middle East.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Mario Ritter adapted this story from reports by Carla Babb, Joshua Fatzick, Hamada Elrasam, Ed Yeranian, and Lisa Bryant. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
indication – n. a something that shows or points to another thing
lapse – n. an occurrence when something is missed
debris – n. what is left after something is destroyed, wreckage