ISIS has claimed responsibility for destroying a Russian passenger jet in response to Vladimir Putin’s decision to bomb Jihadi targets in Syria, although both Moscow and Egypt have denied any possible terrorism link.
The aircraft, which had 200 adult passengers, 17 children and seven crew crashed less than 25 minutes after it took off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The Irish-owned aircraft was leased by a Russian airline who were carrying package holiday passengers back to St Peterburg in northern Russia.
It crashed in the Hassana area, south of Arish. Security forces discovered the crash wreckage in a remote mountainous area in a region containing many ISIS-affiliated terrorists.
Egyptian sources are claiming that wreckage has been spread over a three-mile area while an ISIS-affiliate has tried to claim responsibility for the disaster.
The aircraft was leased by Kogalymavia. Airline spokeswoman Oxana Golovina said the airline’s pilot Valery Nemov had more than 12,000 hours of flying experience with 3,860 on the Airbus A321.
She said: ‘Our aircraft was in full working order, our crew was experienced, our pilot had a great deal of flying experience, so we don’t know (what caused the crash).’
They stressed that human error was not at fault for the crash.
The aircraft was manufactured in 1997 and has been operated by Metrojet since 2012. Since leaving the Airbus factory it has flown some 56,000 flight hours completing almost 21,000 journeys.
Russia’s state transport regulator Rostransnadzor found violations when it last conducted a routine flight safety inspection of Kogalymavia
But after the inspection, which took place in March 2014, the airline addressed the safety concerns.
However, the RIA Novosti news agency said that the pilot’s had expressed concerns about one of the aircraft’s engines.
A source told the agency: ‘This board (crew) had several times requested help from technical services due to an engine not starting up several times this week.’
Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered his own team of experts to the crash site to determine the cause of the disaster. He has also declared a day of national mourning. He has already sent five aircraft to Egypt to assist with the investigation. The first of his team is expected to arrive in Cairo later this evening before heading to the crash scene.
The Israeli Defence Forces confirmed they had intelligence assets in the region at the time of the crash. According to a statement: ‘Since this morning the IDF assisted with aerial surveillance in the efforts to locate the Russian airplane that lost contact over the Sinai Peninsula.
‘The IDF has offered continued assistance to both Russia and Egypt if required.’
The wreckage was found roughly 60 miles south of the North Sinai town of El-Arish, Egyptian officials said.