Despite lack of flight-recorder data, top theory is terrorism, official says



MOSCOW (AP) -- A top Russian official said today that flight recorders failed to provide reliable information about what brought down two jetliners nearly simultaneously, killing 89 people, but that terrorism remained a leading possibility.
Vladimir Yakovlev, the Russian president's envoy for the southern region, where one of the planes crashed, said despite the lack of information, the main theory about the catastrophe "all the same remains terrorism," the ITAR-Tass news agency said. The apparent failure of the recorders to provide significant information could increase what appears to be rising suspicion among Russians that the crashes were terrorist acts.
The suspicions are bolstered by the fact the crashes took place just five days before a Kremlin-called election in warring Chechnya, whose separatist rebels have been blamed in a series of suicide bombings in recent years.
Yakovlev told First Channel television that the recorders "turned off immediately ... this is probably the main affirmation that something happened very fast."
Officials have said several possibilities were being investigated as the cause of Tuesday's crashes, including inferior fuel and human error. They had hoped the planes' data recorders would yield clues.
But Yakovlev said the recorders "had gone out of service already before the fall of the airliners," ITAR-Tass said.
Officials had expressed concern that militants might try to carry out attacks ahead of Sunday's vote.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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