UK says bomb may have downed Russian jet, halts Sharm flights

4th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britain said it was concerned that a Russian airliner which crashed in Sinai may have been downed by a bomb, and suspended flights from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday.

"While the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed," Prime Minister David Cameron's office said in a statement.

"But as more information has come to light, we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device."

The announcement came during a visit to Britain by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and four days after the Russian Airbus crashed in Sinai, killing all 224 people on board, shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh.

Ireland's aviation authority instructed airline operators not to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh or over the Sinai peninsula following the British announcement.

On Saturday, hours after the crash, Air France and Lufthansa announced they would stop flying over Egypt's Sinai peninsula as a precautionary measure while investigations into continued.

Militants from the Islamic State group have said they were responsible for downing the plane but provided no details, prompting scepticism about the claim.

British aviation experts have been dispatched to Sharm el-Sheikh to assess the security situation and flights back to Britain from the resort are being held until the assessment is completed as expected later on Wednesday, the statement said.

- 'A precautionary step' -

"We recognise that this information may cause concern for those in Sharm and indeed for those planning to travel to Sharm in the coming days," Downing Street said.

"We have deployed extra consular staff to Sharm who will be on hand at the airport, working with the airlines, to assist British holidaymakers there."

"We would underline that this is a precautionary step and we are working closely with the airlines on this approach," the statement said.

Cameron also called an emergency cabinet meeting on the issue on Wednesday.

The statement from his Downing Street office did not mention whether any restrictions would be made on flights to Sharm, as compared to flights from the resort.

Airline easyJet, which had two flights due to depart Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday, said that both were delayed and that Thursday's schedule was "under review".

"We are doing all possible to keep passengers informed and are providing hotel accommodation for all affected passengers," easyJet said in a statement.

"easyJet remains in contact with the UK Government and will follow any advice it is provided with."

Around 900,000 Britons travel to Egypt every year and at least two flights had been due to leave Sharm el-Sheikh for British airports later on Wednesday. There were no more scheduled flights from Britain to the resort on Wednesday.

As many as 20,000 British holidaymakers are estimated to be currently in the Sharm el-Sheikh resort.

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© 2015 AFP

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