UK, US suspect a bomb caused Russian plane crash

Friday 06/11/2015
Cairo is worried

CAIRO - US and UK officials sug­gested a bomb, possibly planted by Islamic State (ISIS) militants, caused the crash of a Russian passenger jet shortly after it left the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on November 4th there was a “significant possibil­ity that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the air­craft”. US cable news outlet CNN cited an unidentified US official as saying there was “a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane”.

The Associated Press, citing an unnamed US official, reported that “intercepted communications” led to the officials’ tentative conclu­sion that a bomb had been planted on the aeroplane by an ISIS affiliate.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Pesk­ov said any such allegations were “speculation” and Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal was reported as saying investigators had no “evidence or data confirming this theory”.

The United Kingdom suspend­ed flights between Britain and Sharm el-Sheikh, although Egyptian For­eign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN: “It is somewhat premature to make declarations related to what might or might not have happened to the aircraft before the investigation is completed and be­fore there is a definitive cause for this crash.”

Metrojet flight 9268 was 23 min­utes into its October 31st flight from the Egyptian resort to St Peters­burg, Russia, when contact was lost and the Airbus A321-231 crashed in the Sinai peninsula. There were 217 passengers and seven crew mem­bers on board.

The plane had reached 9,400 me­tres in altitude, too high for a shoul­der-fired surface-to-air missile to reach. Metrojet official Alexander Smirnov said there was no techni­cal problem or pilot error involved.

An Egyptian terrorist group linked to ISIS said it downed the plane. Egypt has been cracking down on the group for almost two years, killing hundreds of its mem­bers and arresting many more but reprisals indicate the group re­mains active.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called for patience until a proper investigation, which could take up to a year, was concluded. The plane’s flight and voice record­ers were being examined in Cairo.

Egypt is worried its warming ties with Moscow could be hurt by the tragedy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was one of few leaders outside the Arab world who backed the Egyp­tian army’s overthrow of the Mus­lim Brotherhood-backed govern­ment in 2013. Sisi has visited Russia three times in less than two years and Cairo is also one of few foreign capitals visited by Putin this year.

Egypt plans to buy billions of dol­lars of air defence systems, fighter jets, attack helicopters and arms from Russia. Russia is also expected to build Egypt’s first nuclear power plant in the north-west of the coun­try. Security expert Ashraf Youssef said the plane crash would likely have little effect on relations be­tween Cairo and Moscow.

“The two countries have very strong relations and such an acci­dent can do nothing to shake these ties,” he said.