Uh oh: Terrorist names on doomed Air France passenger list?

The tragic crash of an Air France flight into the Atlantic Ocean could turn out to be more than just an accident.  According to Sky News, as reported by Fox, French investigators say that two names on the passenger manifest match a list of radical Muslims considered dangerous to French security.  The revelation puts terrorism on the list of causes of the mysterious deaths of oveer 220 people (via Brian Faughnan’s Twitter feed):

Two passengers with names linked to Islamic terrorism were on board the Air France flight that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 on board, it has emerged.

French secret servicemen established the connection while working through the list of those who boarded the doomed Airbus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 31.

Agents are now trying to establish dates of birth for the two dead passengers, and family connections.

There is a possibility that the name similarities are simply a “macabre coincidence,” the source added, but the revelation is still being “taken very seriously.”

The Paris-based L’Express quotes a French security official who calls this development “highly significant.”  It certainly seems to make more sense than the previous hypotheses, that a lightning strike disabled the plane’s computers, which caused the pilots to fly directly into a massive turbulence.  That explanation was plausible, but deemed very unusual.  That hasn’t happened in decades to large commercial aircraft, although the particular Airbus might have had some vulnerabilities along these lines.

Also, one must keep in mind that France has always been suspected of entering this investigation with a particular mission: to keep the heat off of Airbus.  The aircraft manufacturer would lose billions if an investigation put the airplane itself at fault, in lost sales and retrofitting of the existing global Airbus fleet.  They wouldn’t falsify records to reach that conclusion, but they may show more enthusiasm for certain leads over another — including leaks to French media about them, regardless of their worth.

One point that neither Fox nor Sky News notes is that no terrorist group has yet taken responsibility for the crash.  Most of the time, they show little reluctance in making those claims; after all, the point for them is to terrorize people, and if they don’t take credit, people won’t react in the way they hope from the attack.  Al-Qaeda could use the boost in credibility, after having a number of its operations abroad thwarted by Western security.

There are still plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of all the publicly-floated hypotheses, especially since the flight had indicated some computer problems before the crash.  If these two names indicate that known terrorist risks were on the plane, though, one has to wonder how they slipped past security to get aboard, and whether they caused the crash.

Update: Added a question mark to the headline for better clarity.  Also, several people note in the comments that AQ hasn’t usually claimed credit immediately for their attacks, such as in Madrid and elsewhere, which is a good point.  I left out an icing hypothesis on the crash; be sure to read the comments.