The Kogalymavia Airbus A-321 with 217 passengers, including 17 children, and seven crew members came down yesterday, 23 minutes after leaving the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for the Russian city of St Petersburg.

So far 175 bodies have been found but the search area was extended to 15km after some were located away from the main wreck of the plane. According to a Russian Emergencies Ministry spokesman, experts in the Egyptian capital of Cairo have examined some 120 bodies of Russian Airbus crash victims.

A working team led by Russian Minister of Emergencies Vladimir Puchkov began operations at the Kogalymavia A321 crash site in Egypt, a ministry representative said. Germany's Lufthansa, Dubai-based Emirates and Air France said they would halt flights over Sinai until the reasons behind the crash became known.

The Islamic State-affiliate group in Egypt, which is waging a deadly insurgency in the Sinai, claimed it
downed the plane in the mountainous area of the Sinai Peninsula but Cairo and Moscow both rejected the claim. "The cause of the crash still is unknown, but it is most likely due to a technical failure, and there is no evidence of any terrorist action," CNN quoted Egyptian Airports Co chief Adel Al-Mahjoob as saying.

The Airbus A321 had a routine check before flight, showing everything was OK to proceed, Mahjoob said.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said experts had confirmed that the militants could not down a plane at the 30,000 feet while Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the claim "cannot be considered accurate".

Mohamed Samir, Egypt's army spokesman, also disputed the claim, saying, "They can put out whatever statements they want but there is no proof at this point that terrorists were responsible for this plane crash. "We will know the true reasons when the Civil Aviation Authority in coordination with Russian authorities completes its investigation. But the army sees no authenticity to the claims."

Russian and French investigators have joined the Egyptian-led probe into one of the deadliest Airbus incidents of the past decade, along with experts from the aviation giant, which is headquartered in France. The plane's black boxes have been found and sent for analysis, officials said.

Investigators said they were checking fuel samples from the last refuelling stop, in the Russian city of Samara, and have focused on the possibility that a technical failure could have caused the 18-year-old plane to crash.

 

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