8,000 Russians stranded in Egypt. ISIS hand indicated
Paris: Black box data from the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt last week indicate it was bombed, sources said, ahead of a first update from the Egyptian-led probe into the disaster.
Also read: Black box of crashed Russian plane found
Debris of the Russian Airbus A321 that crashed into the Sinai Peninsula last week
Both the flight data and voice recorders failed 24 minutes after the plane took off from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort en route to Saint Petersburg on October 31, when it plummeted from the sky into the Sinai Peninsula killing all 224 people on board.
Cairo and Moscow initially dismissed a claim Islamic State (IS) jihadists downed the plane, but mounting evidence that the Airbus A321 was attacked has prompted a growing list of governments to warn against travel to Sharm el-Sheikh. On Friday, President Vladimir Putin ordered all Russian flights to Egypt halted, in a fresh blow to the country’s already struggling tourism industry.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told news agencies the measure did not mean Moscow believed the crash — the worst aviation disaster in Russia’s history — was due to an attack, and the investigation continued. The head of Russia’s emergencies ministry said Russian experts had taken samples from the crashed jet and were testing it for any traces of explosives. But a source close to the investigation told AFP the black box data “strongly favours” the theory a bomb on board brought down the plane.
Another person close to the case in Paris said the plane had suffered “a violent, sudden” end, saying: “Everything was normal during the flight, absolutely normal, and suddenly there was nothing.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office said he called Putin and they agreed to bolster coordination to “strengthen security measures for Russian planes”.
Nearly 80,000 tourists are estimated have been stranded by their government’s decision to halt flights. Britain on Friday lifted its block on flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh but just 1,200 of the estimated 20,000 Britons who were holidaying in the resort managed to get home. There were angry scenes as thousands more who had hoped to fly home were sent back to their hotels after Egypt placed restrictions on the number of repatriation flights. “I think a lot of people will question whether they ever want to go to Egypt again,” said human resources manager Nicky Bull, as she arrived back in Britain on board one of the eight flights that made it out. Washington said it would step up security screenings of US-bound flights from some Middle East airports as a precaution.
IS said it downed the plane in retaliation for Russian air strikes in Syria, but has provided no details. If it was behind the attack, it would be the first time the jihadists, who control large areas of Syria and Iraq, have hit a passenger plane.