The Latest: Countries warned of dangers flying over Sinai

AP News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 9:49 AM
The Latest: Countries warned of dangers flying over Sinai

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — The latest developments after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board Saturday (all times local).

5:50 p.m.

The United States, Germany and Britain all had overflight warnings in place for Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where a Russian passenger plane went down killing all 224 people on board.

Germany's warning, filed with the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization on Oct. 5 remains in place until 2016, as do the British and American warnings. In a response dated Oct. 15, Egypt's civil aviation authority replied that "all necessary measures for safeguarding the airspace are already taken from our side."

The warnings advised airlines to avoid flying over the Sinai Peninsula below 26,000 feet and to avoid the Sharm el-Sheik airport due to extremist violence and, notably, the use of anti-aircraft weapons with what the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration described as having the potential to reach high altitudes.

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5:20 p.m.

James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, says he could not rule out that the Russian passenger plane which crashed in the Sinai was brought down by Islamic State extremists.

Clapper told reporters in Washington that "we don't have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet" in the crash Saturday that killed all 224 people on the Metrojet.

But he noted that the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility, has a significant presence in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Asked if Islamic State extremists had the capabilities to bring down a passenger jet, he said, "It's unlikely, but I wouldn't rule it out."

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4:55 p.m.

Robert Galan, a French aviation expert, says comments by a Metrojet executive that an "external impact" brought down its plane in the Sinai point to two possibilities: a bomb or sabotage.

Galan, who has written a history of airline disasters, says he was not familiar with security at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport where the plane took off Saturday before crashing 23 minutes later. But Galan told The Associated Press that any plane on a tarmac can be surrounded by more than a dozen mechanics or other technicians.

Sabotage would require familiarity with the electrical or fuel systems of the A320-200, but he said hiding a bomb would need less knowledge.

Galan said analysis of the black box will not confirm either a bomb or sabotage, as it records only the pilots' communications and technical readings. But he said investigators could know within 48 hours whether a bomb downed the jet, because the debris would show traces of explosives.

All 224 people on the plane were killed in the crash.

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4:40 p.m.

The Irish Aviation Authority says the plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai desert was registered in Ireland, and regulators there found its safety documentation in order earlier this year.

The Airbus A321 was owned by Irish firm Willmington Trust SP Services (Dublin) Ltd and leased to Russian airline Metrojet.

The aviation authority says that because the plane was Irish-registered, "in April/May 2015, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) conducted an annual review of the aircraft certifications in support of its annual Certificate of Airworthiness renewal process and all certifications were satisfactory at that point in time."

The authority said that under international aviation rules Russia was responsible for all aspects of the plane's operation, including maintenance and safety.

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3:25 p.m.

A Russian minister says search teams in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have finished combing a 20-square kilometer (7.7-square mile) area where a Russian jet crashed Saturday for bodies.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov told Russian news agencies on Monday that the search in that area has been complete and that a government plane in the evening will take more remains of plane victims to St. Petersburg.

Puchkov said search teams are now examining a 30-square kilometer (11.6 square mile) area around the crash site and promised they will not stop until all the bodies have been recovered.

The Metrojet crash killed all 224 people on board.

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3:40 p.m.

The head of the Russian Federal Aviation Agency has chided the owner of the plane that crashed in Egypt on Saturday for pointing to one cause of the crash, saying investigators simply do not have enough data to reach any conclusion.

A Metrojet official earlier on Monday identified "external impact" as the only probable cause of the crash, brushing aside the possibility of a technical fault or a pilot error.

Aviation agency chief Alexander Neradko said in televised remarks in Cairo on Monday that it was premature of Metrojet to comment on the possible cause and said the conclusions can be drawn only after the fragments and the contents of the black boxes have been studied.

Neradko also mentioned that Egyptian authorities will not begin studying the black boxes until representatives of all the involved parties arrive. This includes not only Russia and Egypt but also France, Germany and Ireland, Neradko said.

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3:15 p.m.

Russia's Investigative Committee says 130 bodies and 40 body parts from the Metrojet plane crash in the Sinai have arrived in St. Petersburg.

The remains were flown in early Monday on a Russian government plane and were sent to a crematorium. Work identifying the victims began immediately and investigators say the families of the victims have given DNA samples to help that process.

Saturday's crash killed all 224 people aboard the plane heading from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, most of them Russians.

Another plane with more crash victims' remains is expected in St. Petersburg late Monday night.

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3 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is describing the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt as an "enormous tragedy" and says his thoughts are with the families of the victims.

Putin spoke Monday in his first public appearance since the Metrojet plane crashed Saturday in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, 23 minutes after it took off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people aboard the plane were killed, the vast majority of them Russians.

Russian and Egyptian officials have not given a cause for the crash, which occurred in an area where Egyptian troops are fighting an Islamic insurgency. A Metrojet official said Monday that "an external impact" brought the plane down, not a technical malfunction or pilot error.

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2:50 p.m.

Metrojet official says its plane crashed in the Sinai due to "an external impact" and Islamic State has claimed it brought the plane down, but one expert does not think the extremists could do that.

British military analyst Paul Beaver said he was certain IS does not possess a missile system — such as the Russian Buk — capable of hitting a plane at an altitude of 31,000 feet.

He told The Associated Press on Monday "that's a very serious piece of equipment, and I don't think they have that sophistication. Beaver said such a system "requires a bunch of well-trained people, an integrated air-defense network around them. You can't just drive up in a vehicle and fire a missile."

Beaver also said the Sinai desert was well-scrutinized by intelligence agencies, so a missile would have been noticed.

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2:15 p.m.

Metrojet officials say something outside the plane flying to St. Petersburg caused it to crash in the Sinai desert and that made the plane's crew incapable of responding.

Viktor Yung, a director general of Metrojet, says Monday "from the moment since the events took a tragic turn, the crew became incapacitated." He says that's why there was not "a single attempt to get in touch (with air traffic control) and report the situation on board."

Another Metrojet official, Alexander Smirnov, has ruled out technical faults or pilot error as a reason for Saturday's crash, saying Monday it had to be due to "an external impact on the plane."

A Cairo official who had earlier reported a distress call by the pilot was not answering calls Monday seeking clarification.

All 224 people aboard the plane were killed in the crash.

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2 p.m.

A Metrojet official says its plane crew did not send a distress call and did not contact Egyptian traffic controllers before the plane crashed into the Sinai.

Viktor Yung, a deputy director general at the Russian airline, spoke Monday at a news conference in Moscow. His comments directly contradict those of Egyptian officials, who say the doomed plane's pilot had reported a technical problem to air traffic controllers and wanted to make an emergency landing at the nearest airport.

Another Metrojet official, Alexander Smirnov, on Monday ruled out technical faults or pilot error as a cause of Saturday's crash, saying it had to be due to "an external impact on the plane."

All 224 people aboard the plane were killed.

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1:45 p.m.

Russia's emergency situations minister has examined the black boxes from Saturday's crash of a Russian plane in Egypt and says they are in a good condition.

Russian news agencies on Monday quoted Vladimir Puchkov as saying that so Russian officials were shown the black boxes found at the site of the crash in the Sinai Peninsula.

Investigators have so far refrained from naming the cause of the crash but Metrojet, the Russian company operating the plane, on Monday ruled out technical faults or pilot error as a cause of the crash.

All 224 people aboard the plane were killed.

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1:30 p.m.

A top official at Metrojet says its plane dropped 300 kph (186 mph) in speed and 1.5 kilometers (about 5,000 feet) in altitude one minute before it crashed into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Metrojet, also told reporters Monday in Moscow that no technical fault could have caused the Airbus A320-200 to break up in the air. He says the cause of Saturday's crash "could only have been a mechanical impact on the plane" in the air.

Russian investigators say the plane broke up at high altitude over the Sinai Peninsula but have so far refrained from naming possible causes. All 224 people aboard were killed.

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1:10 p.m.

A top official at Metrojet, the Russian airline company whose charter flight crashed Saturday in Egypt, says the plane lost speed right before the crash.

Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Metrojet, also told reporters Monday in Moscow that no technical fault could have caused the Airbus A320-200 to break up in the air. He says the cause of the crash "could only have been a mechanical impact on the plane" in the air.

Russian investigators say the plane broke up at high altitude over the Sinai Peninsula but have so far refrained from naming possible causes. All 224 people aboard were killed.

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1 p.m.

A top official at Metrojet, the Russian airline company whose flight crashed Saturday in Egypt, is insisting that a technical fault could not have caused the crash.

Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Metrojet, told reporters Monday in Moscow that no technical fault could have caused the Airbus A320-200 to break up in the air. He says the cause of the crash "could only have been a mechanical impact on the plane" in the air.

Russian investigators say the plane broke up at high altitude but have so far refrained from naming possible causes.

The Metrojet crashed Saturday morning 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board, the vast majority of them Russians.

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11:50 a.m.

A Russian official says forensic experts have begun identifying the bodies of the 224 victims of the Metrojet plane crash in Egypt.

Yulia Shoigu, chief of the emergency situations ministry's psychological service, made the comment Monday in televised remarks. Russia has sent over 100 emergency workers and aviation experts to help Egypt examine the crash site in the Sinai Peninsula. French, German and Airbus aviation teams are also helping the investigation.

A Russian government plane on Monday brought 140 bodies of plane crash victims to St. Petersburg, where most of the passengers were from. Another plane will be taking more crash victims' bodies to St. Petersburg from Cairo late Monday night.

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10:40 a.m.

Russia's emergency situations minister Vladimir Puchkov says the search for the bodies of victims of the plane crash in Egypt will wrap up in a day.

Puchkov tells a televised press conference Monday that the search in the Sinai Peninsula should wrap up by 10 p.m. Monday.

The Metrojet Airbus A320-200 crashed Saturday morning 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 on board. Most were Russian and many were from St. Petersburg.

A Russian government plane took the first 140 bodies from Egypt to St. Petersburg early Monday. Puchkov said another plane will travel from Egypt to St. Petersburg on Monday evening to bring more bodies of plane crash victims.

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Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Dmitry Lovetsky in St. Petersburg, Russia, Lori Hinnant in Paris, Jill Lawless in London and Maram Mazen in Cairo all contributed.