Egypt’s Prime Minister has debunked the claim by an Islamic State affiliated militant group in the Sinai that they were responsible for the crash of a Russian airliner that crashed in central Sinai on Saturday.
Ibrahim Mahlab said technical fault was most likely the cause of the crash. He said experts have confirmed that the plane could not be brought down at the altitude the Airbus 321 was flying at.
Egypt’s civilian aviation ministry said the plane had been at an altitude of 9,450m (31,000ft) when it disappeared.
Security experts say a plane flying at that altitude would be beyond the range of a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (Manpad), which Sinai militants are known to possess.
The Kogalymavia Airbus A-321 came down early on Saturday, about 23 minutes after leaving the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for the Russian city of St Petersburg.
However, Egypt’s civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said there had been no sign of any problems on board the flight. His claim contradicts earlier reports that the pilot contacted air traffic controllers requesting for emergency landing after experiencing technical problems.
However, three airlines – Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa – have decided not to fly over the Sinai Peninsula until more information is available.
“Emirates is currently avoiding flying over the Sinai peninsula until more information is available. “We are currently monitoring the situation.”” a spokesperson for the airline to the AFP.
But British Airways and EasyJet says they are not considering suspending flights over the region at the moment.
RT News is reporting that no fewer than 25 children including a 10-month-old baby were among the 224 people who died in the crash, the worst air disaster in Egypt’s history.
The Russian government has declared a day of mourning as condolence registers and flowers are being laid at the Pulkovo airport in honour of the dead.
On Sunday morning, Russian Emergency Ministry said in a tweet that scores of Russian emergency officials have arrived Cairo and are headed to the site of the crash. Over 170 ambulances have arrived at the scene as bodies are being taken to the Egyptian capital for DNA analysis.
Russian transport Minister, Maksim Sokolov, said the plane’s black boxes have been discovered. He said though they were slightly damaged, they have not been exposed to thermal damage.
The crash is said to be a further blow to the already dwindling Egyptian tourism industry. Last September, Egyptian security forces shot and killed 12 Mexican tourists they mistook for Islamist militants in the region.