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Sunday 11 December 2016

'No evidence' plane broke up in air

Young women grieve at an entrance of Pulkovo airport outside St.Petersburg, Russia. Photo: AP
Young women grieve at an entrance of Pulkovo airport outside St.Petersburg, Russia. Photo: AP

Egypt's civil aviation ministry said there were no facts to substantiate assertions by Russian officials that the Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday broke up in mid-air.

But spokesman Mohamed Rahmi confirmed that no distress call had been received before the crash, which left wreckage from the Metrojet Airbus 321, carrying Russian holidaymakers back to St Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, strewn over more than 3km of desert.

"No communication from the pilot was recorded at the navigation centres requesting anything," he said, adding that the investigating team, led by Egypt and aided by experts from Russia, Airbus and Ireland, where the plane is registered, had returned to the crash site (inset) yesterday.

Once investigations at the site were completed, they would focus on analysing the contents of the black box flight recorders, he said. Sources on the investigation team said the recorders are in good condition and should yield clues. Rahmi said there was no proof yet that the plane had broken up in flight. "This could be a long process and we can't talk about the results as we go along," he said.

However, the fact that no distress call was received and the wreckage was scattered widely has suggested a sudden break-up to many experts. Theories floated so far range from a missile attack, or a bomb on board, to a structural failure.

A Sinai-based Egyptian militant group allied to Islamic State claimed to have shot down the plane in response to Russia's military intervention in Syria. However, they are not believed to have missiles capable of hitting a plane at 30,000 feet.

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