The crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt that killed all 224 people on board was the nation’s deadliest air disaster ever. It could also mark the first time when a Russian plane was downed by a foreign terrorist group. Egyptian and Russian officials have said the reason for the crash has remained unknown and warned against speculation about possible reasons, but British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that it was “more likely than not” that Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200 was brought down by a bomb.
Cameron said his government decided to ground all flights to and from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, leaving thousands of British tourists at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh stranded or waiting to get evacuated. Cameron said the move was taken because “intelligence and information” pointed at a bomb on board the Russian plane as the likely cause of the Oct. 31 crash over the Sinai Peninsula. If the bomb theory is officially proven, it would deal a fatal blow to Egypt’s already struggling tourist industry, but it will only strengthen support in Russia for President Vladimir Putin’s military action in Syria.
The passenger jet reached its cruising altitude of more than 9,400 meters 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, a Red Sea resort favored by Russian tourists, when it abruptly plummeted down and crashed into the desert. Russian officials said that the large area over which the fragments were spread meant that the plane broke up at high altitude, but wouldn’t name the reason, saying it can only be determined by the official probe that would take months.
Many aviation experts pointed at a bomb onboard as the most likely cause. A bomb explosion would explain why the plane abruptly broke up in mid-air without giving the crew a chance to communicate with ground controllers or even push a button to send distress signal. Some others pointed at a 2001 incident with the same plane, which grazed the runway with its tail while landing in Cairo. However, the passenger jet underwent factory repairs at the manufacturer’s plant after that incident, which made sure it couldn’t cause any trouble. Other versions, like a possible short circuit sparking a fire on board or an engine fire resulting in its explosion were viewed by experts with skepticism.
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