Investigators rule out as ‘improbable’ theory that exploding phone caused EgyptAir crash

An Egypt Air plane on the tarmac of Cairo international Airport. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 May 2019
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Investigators rule out as ‘improbable’ theory that exploding phone caused EgyptAir crash

  • The plane, flying from Paris to Cairo, crashed over the Mediterranean between Crete and the northern coast of Egypt on May 19, 2016
  • All passengers and crew on board, including 40 Egyptians and 15 French citizens, lost their lives in the crash of the A320

PARIS: It is improbable that an exploding smartphone or tablet caused the crash of an Airbus jet operated by EgyptAir three years ago, according to an expert report commissioned by French authorities and seen by AFP on Sunday.
The plane, flying from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to Cairo, crashed over the Mediterranean between Crete and the northern coast of Egypt on May 19, 2016 killing all 66 people on board.
But the aftermath of the crash has been marked by tension, with the Egyptian authorities pointing to a terror attack as the likely cause but their French counterparts insisting on technical issues.
Paris investigating magistrates ordered separate expert reports on two subjects, the first looking at the maintenance of the plane and the second specifically at the phone issue.
There had been speculation that a thermal runaway — a drastic change in temperature — in batteries in an iPhone or iPad in the cockpit could have been the cause of a fire that brought down the plane.
But in the expert report, first reported by the Le Parisien daily and now seen by AFP, three experts said that this was improbable.
“If a spontaneous thermal runaway in a device with a lithium-ion battery can never be completely excluded, the analysis shows that for these devices such an event must be considered extremely improbable,” said the report.
It said that this conclusion was only valid if there had been no “external mechanical aggression” on the devices.
The report said there should have been no security impact even if the devices had been charging in the cockpit.
The report on the security of the plane, which was made known in April, said the aircraft should never have taken off because of a series of technical issues on previous flights.
All passengers and crew on board, including 40 Egyptians and 15 French citizens, lost their lives in the crash of the A320.
In December 2016, Egyptian officials said traces of explosives had been found on the remains of some victims, but French authorities were skeptical, as no organization had claimed responsibility for any attack.


Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

Updated 17 June 2019
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Saudi crown prince, Pompeo send a message to Iran: End hostility or pay the price

  • The US secretary of state said the US was discussing a possible international response
  • MBS hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy”

JEDDAH: The US will take all actions necessary — “diplomatic and otherwise” — to deter Iran from disrupting Gulf energy supplies, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Sunday.

Pompeo spoke hours after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Kingdom would “not hesitate in dealing with any threat against our people, sovereignty and vital interests.”

The twin warnings to the regime in Tehran followed last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, widely assumed to have been carried out by Iran.

“We don’t want war. We’ve done what we can to deter it,” Pompeo said in a TV interview. “But the Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this kind of behavior.

“What you should assume is we are going to guarantee freedom of navigation throughout the Strait of Hormuz. This is an international challenge, important to the entire globe. The US is going to make sure that we take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise, that achieve that outcome.”

Pompeo said the US was discussing a possible international response, and he had made a number of calls to foreign officials about the tanker attacks.

He said China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia relied heavily on freedom of navigation through the strait. “I’m confident that when they see the risk, the risk to their own economies and their own people, and outrageous behavior of Iran, they will join us in this.”

The Saudi crown prince, in an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, said the Kingdom had “supported the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran out of our belief that the international community needed to take a decisive stance against Iran.”

He hoped the Iranian regime “would opt to become a normal state and cease its hostile policy.”

Crown Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom’s hand was always extended for peace, but the Iranian regime had disrespected the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit to Tehran by attacking the two oil tankers in the Gulf, one of which was Japanese.

“It also employed its militias to carry out a shameful attack against Abha International Airport. This is clear evidence of the Iranian regime’s policy and intentions to target the security and stability of the region.”

The crown prince said the attacks “underscore the importance of our demand before the international community to take a decisive stance against an expansionist regime that has supported terrorism and spread death and destruction over the past decades, not only in the region, but the whole world.”

Prince Mohammed’s interview was “a message to Tehran, and beyond Tehran, to the international community,” the Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“He sent out the message that we do not want a war in the region. He was offering peace, as is our nature, and that is what we are doing now. But if it is going to affect our vital interests, our vital resources and our people, we will defend ourselves and take action to handle any threat.  

“We are facing aggressive, barbaric and terrorist threats from Iran, and we must take rapid and decisive action against that. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is sending a message to the world that there must be a solution.”