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Was terrorism to blame in Air France Flight 447 crash?

June 11, 2009 | 11:46 am

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Investigators are looking into lots of causes that would explain why Air France Flight 447 exploded over the Atlantic, killing all 228 passengers and crew members aboard.

One possibility is that a lightning strike disabled the plane’s computers, which caused the pilots to fly directly into a massive turbulence. Another is that a faulty air speed indicator on the Airbus could have misled the pilots into flying faster than the aircraft could withstand, or faster than it should into turbulence.

Then earlier this week came word from French security officials that two of the passengers on the doomed flight were on a list of Islamic radicals posing a threat to France, prompting a spate of stories that terrorism was involved.

The Weekly Standard chided the New York Times and the Washington Post for minimizing the prospect of terrorism, saying "Either scenario -- massive instrument failure or midair terrorism -- is a nightmare to contemplate, but one might be forgiven for wondering why our 'newspaper of record' and its rival in Washington would choose to dismiss one of them out of hand."

Now, according to Britain's IBTimes, the French have cleared the two men, saying they shared the same name as that of known Islamic radicals, though French Defense Minister Herve Morin has not ruled out terrorism as a possibility in the crash.

"We launched an urgent inquiry into the men's backgrounds as soon as they were pinpointed as having possible terrorist links," the French Interior Ministry said in a statement. "This deep and wide-ranging investigation has allowed us to clear them."

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Brazilian Air Force personnel carry a body recovered from the crash of Air France Flight 447. Credit: Eraldo Peres / Associated Press

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