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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Egypt plane crash 'caused by mechanical impact mid-air' - top official

Victims of the Russian plane crash in Sinai (From top left):Anastasia Bogdanova, Anton Bogdanov, Alena Moiseeva, Diana Golenkova, Maria Ivleva,Aleksandra Illarionova, Leonid Gordin, Aleksandra Chernova, (from bottom left)Aleksei and Tatiana Gromov, their 10-month-old baby Darina Gromov, Valeria Kantcerova, Nina Golubeva, Vera Gerasina, Victor Anisimov and (bottom right) Svetlana Dudochkina. Photo: Instagram/ Tatyana Gromova/east2westnews/Wil​l Stewart
Victims of the Russian plane crash in Sinai (From top left):Anastasia Bogdanova, Anton Bogdanov, Alena Moiseeva, Diana Golenkova, Maria Ivleva,Aleksandra Illarionova, Leonid Gordin, Aleksandra Chernova, (from bottom left)Aleksei and Tatiana Gromov, their 10-month-old baby Darina Gromov, Valeria Kantcerova, Nina Golubeva, Vera Gerasina, Victor Anisimov and (bottom right) Svetlana Dudochkina. Photo: Instagram/ Tatyana Gromova/east2westnews/Wil​l Stewart
An Egyptian man puts flowers near debris at the crash site of a Russian airliner in al-Hasanah area at El Arish city, northern Egypt
People gathered to light candles yesterday during a day of mourning for the plane crash victims in St. Petersburg, Russia

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

Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Metrojet, said 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.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said that they were not ruling any theory out in the crash.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that there were "not yet any grounds to rule out any theory for the crash", replying to a question about whether a terrorist attack could be to blame.

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

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

The announcement comes as Egypt and Russia last night appeared to back away from their assertions that a Russian passenger jet crashed in the Sinai desert because of a technical fault, as it was revealed that the plane broke up in the air.

Officials have now conceded the aircraft could had been brought down by a bomb on board.

Just hours after the Airbus A321 crashed on Saturday, both governments were quick to say the doomed airliner appeared to be the victim of mechanical failure.

Responsibility

But by yesterday evening Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's president, was speaking more cautiously, saying it was too soon tell the cause and that an "extensive and complicated technical study" was needed.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) has claimed responsibility for destroying the aircraft, saying that it was revenge for Russia's intervention in Syria on behalf the Assad regime.

A team of Irish aviation experts is to fly out to the 20sq km crash site to help establish what happened. The Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) of the Department of Transport will send a team to Cairo today to assist in the investigation.

It will be made up of an operations/pilot inspector and an engineering inspector from the AAIU and a regulatory/operations adviser from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). It has emerged that the plane had passed a safety review carried out by the IAA earlier this year.

The team will fly out from Baldonnel using military transport provided by the Department of Defence and the Irish Air Corps.

Viktor Sorochenko, a Russian aviation official who inspected the crash site, said the Kogalymavia-operated flight "broke up in the air" as he explained why the debris was spread over eight square miles (20sq km).

"Disintegration of the fuselage took place in the air and the fragments are scattered around a large area," he said.

Investigators have reportedly begun examining both of the aircraft's black boxes in the hope of learning precisely what happened in the aircraft's final moments.

A grainy mobile phone video circulated online purports to shows the moment the airliner exploded before hurtling down to earth, but its origins are unclear and it could not be verified as authentic.

Explosives

However, it appeared to chime with accounts from eyewitnesses who said the plane fell flaming from the sky.

Yves Trotignon, a former French intelligence agent, noted that Isil's claim of responsibility was vague in detail.

"The statement does not say that they shot it down, but that they destroyed it," he told 'Le Parisien', adding: "You could imagine explosives on board, or sabotage."

Terrorism experts said Isil has never claimed an attack it did not carry out.

Mathieu Guidere, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toulouse, said Isil "is very well established in the Sinai, has infiltrated almost all organisations and infrastructure, so it is quite possible that a fighter sabotaged the plane at the airport before it took off or placed a device on board."

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