Police in Brazil are scouring airport video footage in a bid to identify passengers on the doomed Air France jet, following reports that two terror suspects were aboard when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.
French magazine L’Express said French intelligence services had matched the names of two passengers on board Flight 447 on May 31, with those of suspects linked to Islamic terrorism.
However, it noted that the passengers’ birth dates were not available, and that it might only be a case of people with similar names. The names themselves were not reported.
A senior judicial official in France said yesterday that he had received no information to back up the claim and French police and British intelligence officials would not comment on the report.
A spokesman for Brazil’s intelligence agency said he had no information about any terrorist connections to Flight 447.
Brazil’s federal police are examining video footage at the boarding gate to help identify the passengers, according to an agency spokeswoman.
Yesterday a French nuclear submarine reached the crash zone to join the search for the plane’s black boxes, which may be the key to determining what brought the Airbus down in the sea off Brazil with 228 people on board, including five Britons.
The attack sub Emeraude plans to trawl 13 square miles a day, using sonar to try to pick up the boxes’ acoustic beacons or “pingers”, French armed forces spokesman Christophe Prazuck said.
It is a race against time, because the beacons will start to fade 30 days after the crash. If the boxes are spotted, the Emeraude will work with the mini-sub Nautile, which can descend to the ocean floor and was a key part of the search for the Titanic.
“There are big uncertainties about the accident site, the ocean floor is rugged ... so it’s going to be very difficult,” Mr Prazuck told France-Info radio.
“It’s going to be very complicated and we’re going to need a lot of luck.”
The French submarines will be helped by two US underwater audio devices capable of picking up signals even at a depth of 20,000ft.
US Air Force colonel Willie Berges, commander of the American military forces supporting the search operation, said the first of two US towed pinger locators was being loaded on to a search ship in the northern city of Natal.
He said the Dutch ship contracted by French investigators would head out today and arrive in the search area by Sunday.
The listening devices will be slowly towed in a grid pattern while a 10-person team aboard the vessel watches monitors receiving signals from the locators.
Col Berges said the second ship was expected to arrive at the port city this weekend.
Forty-one bodies have been recovered so far from the scene of the crash, about 400 miles north east of the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil’s northern coast. The remains are being flown daily to Recife, where investigators hope to identify them and uncover clues into the crash based on the victims’ injuries.