The Latest: British minister: Jet likely downed by explosive

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2015 1:47 PM
The Latest: British minister: Jet likely downed by explosive

CAIRO (AP) — The latest on the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula over a week ago that killed all 224 people onboard. (All times local.)

8:30 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says the crash of a Russian airliner heading from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was "more likely than not" caused by an explosive device smuggled on to the plane by "operatives" either inspired or related to the Islamic State extremist group.

Hammond told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday that Britain has shared some information with its partners but cannot share some "sensitive intelligence."

Nonetheless, he expressed hope that countries would "draw conclusions" from Britain's decision to be first to suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, a major tourist destination.

Hammond said Britain looks forward to resuming normal air operations "soon," but he stressed that the timing will depend on work with Egyptian authorities and airlines to put in place "robust" security arrangements.

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6:15 p.m.

Israel's defense minister says there is a "high probability" that the Russian airliner that recently crashed in Egypt was brought down by a bomb.

Moshe Yaalon told reporters Monday that he "would be surprised" if a planted explosive device did not cause the crash.

"There is a high probability that this was a terror attack by an explosive device," he said.

Yaalon noted that Israel is not involved in the investigation. He said his opinion was based on "what we hear and understand."

Israel borders Egypt's Sinai desert, the site of the crash. It maintains tight security ties with Egypt and keeps a close eye on Islamic militant groups operating in the desert peninsula.

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6 p.m.

Passengers on Dutch carrier KLM's flight from Cairo to Amsterdam on Tuesday will be allowed to check in baggage as the company will use "its own personnel to carry out security screening" for the flight.

KLM spokeswoman Gedi Schrijver says three security guards will be in Cairo along with sniffer dogs to check baggage.

KLM late last week banned passengers from checking in baggage from Cairo, citing "national and international information" as the reason for its precautionary measure in the aftermath of the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian Metrojet plane heading from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Islamic State group affiliate in Sinai has claimed downing the plane, while U.S. and British officials say it was likely brought down by a bomb on board.

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5 p.m.

Tunisia's government is increasing security measures at airports and on airplanes after last month's crash of a Russian airliner over Egypt, amid mounting suspicion that it could have been downed by a bomb.

Tunisia's tourism industry has been deeply wounded this year by Islamic extremist attacks on a museum and a hotel that left 60 people dead. Tunisian authorities, who have been criticized for not doing enough to secure tourist sites, say the country remains a target for terrorist attacks.

A Transport Ministry statement Monday said participants in a special aviation security meeting decided to augment security checks of passengers, baggage, employees and all equipment used for aircraft maintenance.

It said it will strengthen control of all planes entering Tunisian airspace, and will start checking all Tunisian planes that return from abroad before allowing passengers aboard.

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4:15 p.m.

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker says the airline is confident in Egypt's safety capabilities and will begin flying its normal routes along the Sinai Peninsula once all is cleared from the authorities.

In an interview with The Associated Press on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow on Monday, al-Baker said, "We have complete confidence that the Egyptian authorities are quite capable of making sure that the airspace is safe."

Following standard procedures, he says Qatar Airways is reviewing its security procedures in the aftermath of the Oct. 31 crash that killed all 224 people onboard the Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 as it flew over the Sinai Peninsula.

Qatar Airways, the second largest carrier in the Middle East, has stopped flying along the Sinai border on routes to Cyprus and Lebanon since the crash. Al-Baker says that the airline does not usually fly over Sinai, but says that policy is unrelated to security concerns

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2:10 p.m.

A team from the International Civil Aviation Organization is inspecting Cairo's international airport. The checks are expected to include security and baggage handling, both of which have come under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Russian airline disaster over a week ago.

Monday's visit was scheduled before the Oct. 31 crash in the Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 people onboard the Russian Metrojet Airbus A321.

The Islamic State group in Sinai has claimed downing the plane, while U.S. and British officials say it was likely brought down by a bomb on board.

The inspection is to end on Thursday. The ICAO is a U.N. specialized agency that aims to support a safe and secure civil aviation sector.

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1:30 p.m.

Russia's deputy prime minister says it will take about two weeks to bring all the stranded Russian tourists back home from Egypt.

Arkady Dvorkovich, who has been made the point-man for the repatriation in the wake of the Russian plane crash in Sinai, said on Monday that 25,000 have already been brought back home since the weekend.

Russia on Friday suspended all flights to Egypt in the aftermath of the Oct. 31 crash.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he does not expect flights to Egypt to resume any time soon, saying that "it will take time" to ensure safety of travelers in Egypt. He stopped short of giving a timeline for that.

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11:30 a.m.

Russian news agencies are quoting Dmitry Gorin, vice president of the Russian Travel Agencies Association, as saying the number of Russian tourists brought home from Egypt is likely to reach 23,000 by mid-day.

Their returns come after last week's announcement that Russia was suspending new passenger flights to Egypt because of security concerns in the aftermath of the Oct. 31 plane crash. Dozens of airliners have been bringing Russian tourists back home, carrying only cabin baggage, while Russian cargo planes are hauling back the rest of their luggage.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement that the authorities will also be bringing over 130 tons of the tourists' luggage on four cargo planes on Monday.

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10:25 a.m.

At the biennial airshow in Dubai, Airbus officials say the company is confident in the safety of its A321 aircraft, including the plane that crashed in Egypt.

Airbus Chief Operating Officer for Customers John Leahy told reporters on Monday that he is "very confident in the A321's safety record and the safety of the design."

Vice President of Communications at Airbus Stefan Schaffrath rejected suggestions the aircraft itself was faulty.

The passenger jet, operated by Russia's Metrojet, crashed on Oct. 31, nearly 30 minutes after takeoff from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, heading to St. Petersburg.

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This story has been corrected to show that the Dubai airshow is every two years, not every year.