By: VOA News
Source: VOA News
Britain said Wednesday it is increasingly concerned that a bomb brought down the Russian jetliner that crashed last Saturday over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.
British authorities dispatched a team of aviation experts to the airport at the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, where the flight to St. Petersburg originated, to assess security there before any British flights will be allowed to leave the region.
“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.”
At the White House, press secretary Josh Earnest said there are no U.S. carriers that regularly operate out of Sinai Peninsula. He noted since March, the Federal Aviation Administration has had an advisory in place to civil aviation warning of the potential risk of extremism.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State group renewed its claim to have brought down the Metrojet A321 plane, challenging skeptics to prove otherwise.
In an audio statement posted Wednesday on social media sites, the Islamic State said it would disclose details of the attack when it decides to.
Authorities said they have found no evidence of a missile attack at the time the jetliner crashed Saturday. That leaves open the possibility of an explosion aboard the flight, either from a bomb or a mechanical failure.
Investigators are continuing to examine the flight recorders recovered from the wreckage to try to determine a cause for the crash.
Dismissed as ‘propaganda’
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has dismissed as “propaganda” claims by Islamic State insurgents they brought down the jetliner.
“When there is propaganda that it crashed because of ISIS, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt,” Sissi told the BBC, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State.
“Believe me, the situation in Sinai, especially in this limited area, is under our full control,” he said.
A U.S. military satellite detected a heat flash at the time the jetliner crashed over the Sinai, authorities said Tuesday. But neither a missile launch nor missile engine burn was detected.
Experts told U.S. media outlets the heat flash could point to a catastrophic event aboard the aircraft, such as an exploding bomb, the explosion of an aircraft engine, or a fire aboard the plane, or even just the aircraft parts hitting the ground.
‘Wouldn’t rule it out’
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said earlier this week he knew of “no direct evidence” linking the crash to terrorism. He also said it was “unlikely” that Islamic State had the technical expertise to carry out such an attack, but said, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Before heading to London for talks with Cameron, Sisi agreed with the British leader in a phone call on the need for “the tightest possible security” at the Sharm El-Sheikh airport.
Several airlines, including Air France, Lufthansa, Dubai-based Emirates and Qatar Airways have stopped flying over the Sinai Peninsula for safety reasons.