Islamic State Group In Egypt Claims It Downed Plane; Russia Denies
ALTHOUGH, the Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for bringing down the Russian Metrojet plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula providing no evidence, the Russian authorities have however denied it saying it has no capability to do so.
It is not clear what caused the plane crash Saturday morning that killed 224 people on the flight from Egypt to St. Petersburg. Egyptian officials say the pilot reported technical difficulties and wanted to make an emergency landing. The Metrojet crashed in an area where Egyptian forces have been battling an Islamic insurgency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered an official investigation into the crash, and for rescue teams to be sent to the crash site. A criminal case has also been opened against the airline, Kogalymavia, for “violation of rules of flight and preparation for them”, Russia’s Ria news agency reported. The airline, based in western Siberia, operates under the name Metrojet. Russian authorities say it was carrying 217 passengers, 17 of them children aged between 2 and 17, and seven crew. Most were tourists. A centre to help relatives of the passengers has been set up at Pulkovo airport, Tass news agency quoted St Petersburg city officials as saying.
Sudden altitude loss
Initially, there were conflicting reports about the fate of the plane, some suggesting it had disappeared over Cyprus. But the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail confirmed in a statement that a “Russian civilian plane… crashed in the central Sinai”.
It added that Mr Ismail had formed a crisis committee to deal with the crash.
Media reports say at least 50 ambulances have been sent to the scene. Access to the area is strictly controlled by the military and the terrain is difficult, correspondents say.
One official told Reuters news agency that at least 100 bodies had been found. “I now see a tragic scene,” the official said. “A lot of dead on the ground and many died whilst strapped to their seats.”
The plane split in two, with one part burning up and the other crashing into a rock, he added. The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said in a statement that flight KGL9268 left Sharm el-Sheikh at 06:51 Moscow time (03:51 GMT) and had been due into St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport at 12:10.
The authority added that the aircraft failed to make scheduled contact with Cyprus air traffic control 23 minutes after take-off and disappeared from the radar. Egypt’s civilian aviation ministry said the plane had been at an altitude of 9,500m (31,000ft) when it disappeared. Live flight tracking service Flight Radar 24’s Mikail Robertson confirmed the altitude. He told the BBC that the plane started to drop very fast, losing 1,500m in one minute before coverage was lost.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov has scoffed at the IS claim, telling the Interfax news agency that such reports “must not be considered reliable.”
Militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down any commercial airliners or fighter jets but there have been media reports that they have acquired Russian shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles. These missiles, however, are only effective against low-flying aircraft or helicopters.