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Monday, December 14, 2015

Egypt: Preliminary investigation probes show no evidence of a terrorist attack in the Russian airplane crash

Debris of a Russian passenger jet crashed over Sinai in Egypt
(Image: ABC News)
Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry made an official statement regarding the preliminary results of an investigation of a Russian passenger jet downed over Central Sinai on 31 October this year. The statement was made on Monday, 14 December, and claimed there was no evidence that the Russian airplane was brought down as a result of a terrorist attack.

Egypt's chief investigator Ayman Al-Muqqadam stated that the investigation and probes concluded by Egypt on Sunday, 13 December, the preliminary report on the Russian airplane crash, and the technical committee has so far found no evidence that the criminal or terrorist activity was the reason of a Russian jet crash. The statement also added that the copies of the preliminary report concluded by Egyptian side was sent to all the international experts taking part in the probe, including aviation experts from Russia, France and Ireland and experts from ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

Russian passenger jet that was carrying mostly Russian tourists crashed over Central Sinai on 31 October 2015 while it was en route from Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to the Russian city of Saint Petersburg. The plane crashed nearly 20 minutes after it took off. The debris were scattered over the area of several kilometers in the Sinai desert, not far from the Northern Sinai city of Al-Arish. All 244 people on board died in an airplane crash.

Sinai based jihadist group Sinai Province, affiliated with ISIS, has issued a statement claiming responsibility for downing of a Russian passenger jet and stating it was made as a punishment for Russia for carrying out airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.

Debris of a Russian passengers' jet crashed over Egyptian Sinai
(Image: BBC)
Egyptian officials avoided declaring terrorist activity as a cause of the airplane crash, as Egyptian Armed Forces have carried out numerous military operations against the terrorist activities in the region, and Egypt recently made an official statement that the territory of Sinai was controlled by Egypt's Army. In addition to that Egyptian authorities claimed that a careful investigation of a crash is necessary before making any conclusions and statements.
Russia in its turn denied claims of the possibility of a terrorist act as a cause of the tragedy, stating that the technical failure could be the most probable reason of the airplane crash.

UK and USA in their turn made statements that ISIS could be behind the passenger jet's crash, claiming there were evidences of it and leaked communication between the militants' leaders, obtained by the intelligence services. In addition to that the satellite images of the crash area in the moments of the crash indicated the warm trace that could mean the explosion caused the airplane crash.

UK, France, Germany and other Western countries suspended their flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh due to security reasons, until the causes of the plane crash won't be revealed. Russia stopped all the flights to and from Egypt and later on banned Egyptian state owned airline company EgyptAir from flying to Russian airports.

Debris of a Russian jet crashed over Egyptian Sinai
(Image: The Mirror)
Later on, on 17 November, Russia suddenly made a statement, issued by the experts conducting an investigation, and claimed the homemade bomb was planted on the board of the airplane and it caused the explosion of the jet, as the explosives' traces were found on the debris. The bomb was most probably planted inside the baggage department of the plane in the airport.

ISIS also published in its Dabiq magazine a picture of a Schweppes Gold soda can and what appears to be a detonator and a switch, claiming that was the bomb that brought down Russian airplane.

Egypt was outraged by these claims and stated that only an official probe can draw such a finding.

Ayman Al-Muqqadam, Head of Egypt's Civil Aviation Committee, also added that the investigation committee continues its work, and its preliminary report will be verified with the more detailed information in the later phases of the probe.

Referring to some theories circulating in media now and claiming the bomb could be planted on board in Turkey, Ayman Al-Muqqadam said that the black boxes recordings indicate that the plane's route for five days prior to the crash remained confined between the Egyptian and Russian airports.

The crash of a passenger jet over Sinai has significantly threatened Egypt's security and tourism sector as well, bringing it a huge drop in this year. Egypt's Tourism Minister told in his interview to Reuters that the tourism revenues for Egypt in 2015 are expected to be 10% below the last year's.