UK, US officals support claims that bomb downed Russian jet

Western intelligence sources support theory of bomb hidden inside Russian aircraft led to downing

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

British tourists leave after finishing their holiday, at the airport of the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh on November 6 2015

Both Britain and the United States on Friday intercepted claims from suspected militants and a government source which stated that a bomb downed the Russian aircraft on Oct. 31.

According to sources, the bomb was hidden inside a luggage in the hold, but they refused to give any further information.

The Western intelligence sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the evidence had not been confirmed, as there is still no forensic or scientific evidence to support the bomb theory.

A US official noted that the "chatter" intercepted over the bomb theory has conflicting details on the bomb, allegedly placed on the plane. 

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered the halt of all flights to Egypt. 

Putin’s move followed head of Russia's FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov’s suggestion to suspend all Russian passenger flights to Egypt. 

"Until we know the real reasons for what happened, I consider it expedient to stop Russian flights to Egypt," said Bortnikov. "Above all, this concerns tourist routes."

Several countries including Britain, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands have already suspended flights to Sharm el Sheikh, amid security threats and increasing concerns over the cause of the plane crash.

Tourists leave after finishing their holidays, at the airport of the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh on November 6 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron had said on Wednesday that the British government had collected intelligence pointing at the possibility of an on board bomb being the reason behind the Russian plane crash.

Russia’s Metrojet plane crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el Sheikh Airport. With 224 passengers on board dead, Russia spent 3 days mourning, as heartbroken families lay flowers and light candles in public squares in both Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

Coupled with Cameron’s Wednesday comments, comes the US president’s comments over the incident.

US President Barack Obama said on Thursday said that the “possibility” of a bomb on board the Russian airliner - flying over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula - that crashed is very likely, agreeing with British PM David Cameron.  

Obama said in an interview with KIRO/CBS News Radio, that was quoted on CNN, "I think there's a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we're taking that very seriously."

"We're going to spend a lot of time just making sure our own investigators and own intelligence community find out what's going on before we make any definitive pronouncements. But it's certainly possible that there was a bomb on board," he said.

Egypt's rich history acts as the backbone of the country’s tourism industry however, the increasing number of cancelled flights is anticipated to weigh down the country’s tourist industry, an important flow of income for the already struggling economy.

According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of travel & tourism to Egypt’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 was 12.8 percent.

The decision to any suspend flights is also expected to cause major logistical problems for Russia's airlines and stranded tourists.

Flights were suspended by British airliners, saying special guidelines must be followed so the vacationers can be brought home. Passengers were only allowed to carry hand luggage. Meanwhile, heavy luggage and belongings are scheduled to be flown separately, to be united with the passengers later. 

"The additional security measures will include permitting passengers to carry hand baggage only and transporting hold luggage separately," a spokeswoman for Cameron's office said.

"We are working with the airlines to ensure there are suitable arrangements in place to reunite passengers with their belongings as soon as possible."

Egypt's Minister of Civil Aviation, Hossam Kamal, said that this caused "a huge burden on the airport because its capacity does not allow for that."

Thomas Cook Airlines, EasyJet - a privately-held Monarch - British Airways and Thomson operated direct flights between Britain and Sharm el Sheikh, until recently, when reports emerged on Egyptian authorities stalling rescue flights for approximately 20,000 British tourists who are believed to be in the area.

Forensic teams and DAESH claims

The burden of a clear verdict when it comes to the real reason behind the deadly crash, falls on the forensics’ shoulders. With all scenarios on the table and the Russian and Egyptian governments strongly dismissing claims by DAESH's proxies in Sinai.

DAESH's affiliate in Egypt, Wilayet Sinai (Sinai Province), claimed it brought down the airliner by an air missile. Such theory has been dismissed by all parties, however the possibility of the terrorist group being behind the attack is still not off the table.

Forensic teams have experts from different nationalities, all working towards obtaining the cause of crash.

The remains of a Russian airliner are seen as rescue crews wait at the crash site in al-Hasanah area in El Arish city, north Egypt on November 1 2015




TRTWorld and agencies