Terrorists On Board Air France Flight 447?

Authorities say suspicious names on passenger list 'just coincidence'.

June 11, 2009, 1:13 AM

June 11, 2009— -- Fresh questions about the mystery of downed Air France flight 447 continue as search crews pulled more bodies and wreckage from the Atlantic Oceans. The latest questions have emerged over the doomed flight's passenger list. A French magazine, L'Express, reported this week that two of the passengers were on a French terrorism watch list.

French and U.S. government sources, however, told ABC News that no Islamic extremists were aboard flight 447. A former senior White House official said "no names on the manifest triggered any U.S. intelligence persons of interest."

A current senior CIA officer says he hasn't seen anything suggesting that the Rio de Janeiro to Paris flight was downed by an act of terrorism. Additionally, French interior ministry spokesman Gerard Gachet denied the L'Express report.

The French news report reported that it was possible that the two names on the manifest that matched two names on the terrorism watch list was a coincidence.

All 228 aboard flight 447 are presumed dead, after the plane disappeared from radar screens and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean between the coast of Brazil and the coast of West Africa on May 31. Last week, Brazilian military crews found passenger remains and small sections of debris floating on the ocean surface.

Some of the confusion over who was aboard the flight stems from Air France's decision to keep the manifest private. An Air France spokesperson told ABC News that French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the families of the victims that France would never release the names as a privacy concern. Most of the passengers were French and Brazilian. Flight 447 carried passengers and crew from a total of 31 different countries.

ABC News has learned that news reports in Lebanon, Morocco and Turkey have identified citizens of those countries who also perished on flight 447.

A former senior CIA official told ABC News that there is added confusion with terrorism watch lists because Muslim and Arabic names are often poorly translated by Western governments.

"Most Arabs have four names as a full name," the former official said. "But North African countries that were colonized by the French, for example, chopped the names down to two, like theirs, so they could find people. Now, they have a hard time identifying people on the list because the names are inconsistent."

Officials Not Ruling Out Terrorism

Because so little of the plane has been recovered, French officials have refused to officially rule out terrorism as the cause of the crash. However, their investigation thus far has focused on faulty wind-speed sensors on the Airbus A330 airplane. There is no evidence yet that the sensors contributed to the tragedy but initial reviews of flight data transmissions indicate the plane had electrical malfunctions as it went through a tropical storm, some 400 miles northeast of Brazil.

In addition to a large section of the plane's tail, 41 bodies have been recovered from an area of the Atlantic Ocean the size of Europe according to Air France. Medical examiners will be doing autopsies to determine what, if anything, they can learn about how the plane went down.

Until investigators can determine how and why flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. officials say they will continue to monitor the investigation so that they can rule out terrorism. The senior CIA official said as long as terrorism hasn't been ruled out as a cause, the CIA will be watching.

"We're taking this tragedy seriously and we're monitoring it," the official said.

Christophe Schpoliansky contributed to this report.

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