Islamic State group in Egypt claims it downed Russian plane, Russia scoffs
Cairo: The Islamic State has claimed that it downed the Russian plane, which crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula with 224 on board. Several Egyptian military and security officials have said that there are no survivors from the plane.
Russia, however, has rejected ISIS claim saying it has not found any evidence that the plane was shot down. Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov scoffed at the IS claim, telling the Interfax news agency that such reports "must not be considered reliable."
The wreckage of the passenger jet in the Hassana area some 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of the city of el-Arish, an area in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces have for years battled a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency which is now led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.
The officials said there were no survivors from among the 217 passengers and seven crew members aboard the aircraft. Most of the bodies recovered so far from the site of the crash were burned, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Officials say all the victims in Saturday's Metrojet plane crash were Russian citizens.
The Kogalymavia passenger plane, flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia, was last heard from shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort. Sharm el-Sheikh is a popular destination for Russian tourists.
Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said an investigative team has arrived at the crash site to examine the debris and locate the flight's recorders, or the "black box."
According to media reports, the captain of flight 7K9268 told ATC of a technical fault and requested a route change, just after departure.
It is not confirm if the plane changed its route but it was in the air for around 25 minutes only. The plane reportedly disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after takeoff. The plane was at an altitude of 36,000 feet when it vanished from radar screens, the Egyptian civilian aviation ministry said in a statement.
The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. local time bound for St. Petersburg in Russia, the statement said. Earlier in the day, an Egyptian official with the government's Incidents Committee told local media that the plane had briefly lost contact but was now safely in Turkish airspace.
A Cyprus Civil Aviation official says Cairo air traffic control notified Cypriot authorities that they had lost contact with a Russian aircraft early Wednesday. The official, who spoke on contrition of anonymity because he's not authorized to discuss the matter, said the aircraft's last contact was with Egyptian Authorities before disappearing. He said the aircraft did not make contact with Cypriot authorities.
Turkish government spokesmen said they had no information about the missing Russian plane ever entering Turkish airspace. Air traffic control officials said they were not authorized to speak to the press. Officials from the Transport Ministry and the Civilian Air Transport Authority did not answer calls.
Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency said Prime Minister Sherif Ismail had cancelled a visit to the city of Ismailiya and formed an operations room to follow up on the situation.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Facebook page that Russian Embassy personnel in Egypt are working to clarify the situation.
The crash is said to be in a remote area and it is proving to be difficult for rescue forces to reach there and search for any bodies or survivors. The crash reportedly occurred in South Arish region, North of Sharm.
Initially, it was feared that the plane could have been targeted. However, Egyptian security sources said, till now there are no indications that the crashed plane was shot down.
Militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter jets. There have been media reports that they have acquired Russian shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles. But these types of missiles can only be effective against low-flying aircraft or helicopters. In January 2014, Sinai-based militants claimed to have shot down a military helicopter; Egyptian officials at the time acknowledged the helicopter had crashed, but gave no reason.
There was no Indian passenger on board, according to the information provided to Indian consulate in Egypt.
(With inputs from agencies)