The cause of the crash that killed all 224 people aboard a Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula early Saturday has yet to be determined, as there remains no evidence to support the claim by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State that it brought down the plane.
The Metrojet flight, carrying 217 passengers and seven crewmembers, was en route from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg when it dropped off radar screens 23 minutes into the flight.
It is believed to be the deadliest air accident in the history of Russian aviation, surpassing a 1985 disaster in Uzbekistan in which 200 people died, the Russian-run news agency RIA says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a statement expressing his condolences to the families of the victims and declared a day of mourning. A team of Russian investigators was sent immediately to Egypt, according to Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, the Russian state-run news agency RIA reports.
The Russian Transport Minister quickly dismissed the claim, saying it “cannot be considered reliable,” Interfax News reports.
Mohamed Samir, Egypt’s army spokesman, also disputed the claim.
“They can put out whatever statements they want but there is no proof at this point that terrorists were responsible for this plane crash,” Samir said, according to The Guardian. “We will know the true reasons when the Civil Aviation Authority in coordination with Russian authorities completes its investigation. But the army sees no authenticity to the claims.”
Two major European airlines, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France, said Saturday that they would immediately stop flying over Sinai for safety reasons until the cause of the crash was determined.
Officials said 129 bodies and two black boxes with flight data from the plane were found at the crash site, according to RIA. The Russian news outlet Life-News published and tweeted the first photos from the site, showing smoking wreckage spread out on desolate terrain.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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