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FBI Take Over EgyptAir Probe

The FBI is taking over the investigation into the EgyptAir 990 crash after the cockpit voice recorder provided information suggesting a criminal act may be responsible, officials say.

The United States National Transportation Safety Board will now hand the investigation to the FBI and play a supporting role only. Careful scrutiny of the cockpit voice recorder revealed a person in the cockpit saying a short Arabic prayer just before the plane began to dive, according to sources inside the investigation.

The recorder also revealed that one of the two pilots appeared to be outside the cockpit when the prayer was made by another crew member.

In Cairo an EgyptAir pilot who knew both pilots rejected the possibility that the pilots would have deliberately caused the crash. He said co-pilot Adel Anwar was due to marry two days after the doomed flight. "It had all been arranged. He had an apartment ready. So it's out of the question he would kill himself or sabotage [the plane]," he said.

Despite the FBI already conducting interviews and following leads from the day of the crash it has so denied it has any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

The cockpit voice recorder was recovered from the Atlantic ocean 100 km south of the island of Nantucket on Saturday. The flight data recorder, which was recovered earlier last week, showed the plane's autopilot being switched off about 30 minutes after EgyptAir 990 left New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

About eight seconds later the plane began a steep dive that exceeded the design speed of the plane. The final seconds of the tape then showed the engines being turned off as the plane began leveling out. Radar information shows the plane then climbed for a brief period before making a final plunge to the sea.

The final minutes and movements of the flight have baffled experienced pilots as there does not appear to be any rational explanation for the movements.

If the dive from 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) was in order to combat loss of cabin pressure, then the plane should have gone down to 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) rather than climbing again at 16,700 (5,100 meters), the experts said.

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