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Officials “90% Sure” Noise Heard On Russian Jet Black Box Recorder Was A Bomb

A Metrojet passenger jet crashed Oct. 31 over the volatile Sinai peninsula in Egypt en route to St. Petersburg, Russia. All 224 people on board were killed.

An Egyptian military helicopter flies over debris from the Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai. Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters

What We Know So Far

  • An Airbus A-321 operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, or Metrojet, crashed onto Egypt’s volatile Sinai peninsula shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh on Oct. 31.
  • There were 217 passengers, most of whom are thought to be Russian tourists, and seven crew members on board. There were no survivors.
  • A Russian aviation official said the plane disintegrated in the air and its wreckage was scattered over a large area.
  • On Thursday, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there was a “significant possibility” the jet was downed by an ISIS bomb, and Prime Minister David Cameron conceded the crash was “more likely than not” caused by a terrorist bomb.
  • The U.K. announced it would suspend Sinai flights as precaution Thursday.
  • Flights resumed early Friday, but confusion and anger spread through Sharm el-Sheikh airport. EasyJet said Egyptian authorities had prevented 80% of its scheduled flights to the U.K. leaving. However, Egyptian and U.K. officials cast doubt on this claim.
  • On Friday afternoon, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau suggested a temporary suspension of flights to Egypt. A short while later, President Vladimir Putin agreed to the request.
  • The U.S. announced enhanced security measures for U.S.-bound flights from “foreign airports” in the Sinai Peninsula region.

Updates

Officials are “90% sure” the Russian passenger jet was brought down by a bomb, new reports claimed.

Referring to comments made by a member of the air accident investigation team to Reuters in Egypt, Sky News said investigators are increasingly confident that noises heard on the flight’s black box recorders were a planned explosion.

The revelation comes as a U.S. official told CNN that “it’s 99.9% certain” a bomb caused last Saturday’s Metrojet crash, where all 224 passengers were killed.

“We believe it was likely brought down by a bomb,” another official told CNN.

Egyptian air crash investigators probing the cause of the Russian jet crash said Saturday a noise was captured in the final second of the cockpit voice recording.

In a press conference, Ayman el Mokadem, who is heading the investigation committee, told reporters “a spectrum analysis will be carried out by specialized labs in order to identify the nature of this sound.”

Flight recorders were recovered immediately after the plane’s wreckage was located, with the data successfully downloaded for analysis.

A preliminary review of the data found the cockpit voice recording lasted 23 minutes and 14 seconds, and the plane was still climbing in altitude when the recording cut off.

Officials said their visits to the crash site in the Sinai have been hampered by bad weather since Wednesday.

Wreckage will be moved to a “safe and secure place” in Cairo for examination, officials said.

“The debris is scattered over a wide area more than 13 km [8.07 miles] in length…which is consistent with an in-flight break-up,” El Mokadem said. “Some parts of the wreckage are missing and it is hoped to locate them in the coming days.”

El Mokadem said the committee has come up with “no conclusions” yet as to the cause of the crash.

“The committee is considering with great attention all possible scenarios for the cause of the accident,” he said.

Egypt says intelligence that an explosion brought down the Metrojet airliner was not shared with Cairo.

“The information we have heard about has not been shared with Egyptian security agencies in detail. We were expecting that the technical information would be provided to us,” Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said on Saturday, according to Sky News.

He accused the U.K., U.S. and other countries of not sharing intelligence with the Egyptian government amid calls for greater coordination to fight terrorism.

ISIS militants operating in Sinai have claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane in the area. On Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he believed the cause of the crash was “more likely than not” a bomb, according to intelligence received by the U.K. government.

“While the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed,” a No. 10 spokesperson said in a statement. “But as more information has come to light we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.”

Several European countries have blocked flights to Sharm el-Sheikh as investigations into the causes of the crash continue. Egypt fears that the incident will have a severe effect on tourism in the popular holiday destination, which was visited by approximately three million tourists in 2014, according to The Guardian.

ISIS operatives bragged about taking down a passenger plane shortly after the Russian Metrojet plane crashed last weekend, NBC News reported Friday.

U.S. Intelligence officials picked up chatter from ISIS operatives, officials told the network, where they were “celebrating” and discussing how the plane was taken down.

Another intercept collected before the crash between the operatives also discussed that “something big in the area” was about to happen, NBC News reported, hinting but not mentioning specifics about a plane.

The new details add to speculation that the plane carrying 224 passengers might have been destroyed by a bomb on board, which British Prime Minister David Cameron said is “more likely than not” and President Obama called “certainly possible.”

Multiple news outlets have reported that U.S. intelligence on the crash suggests ISIS, or one of its affiliates in the Sinai Peninsula, were involved in bringing the plane down.

Egyptian officials, who are investigating the crash, have declined to offer any speculation on the crash until they complete the official investigation.

Flight recorders onboard the Russian Metrojet plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai suggest a sudden explosion brought down the passenger aircraft, multiple news outlets reported Friday.

Egyptian officials said Friday the cockpit voice recorder from the plane was recovered and still functional, a vital tool as investigators look to uncover the cause of the crash.

Investigators told France 2 that the audio recording suggests there was a sudden explosion on board. According to the report, the first 24 minutes of the flight appeared normal, followed by a sudden blackout, suggesting an explosion on board.

“Everything is normal, absolutely normal during the flight, and suddenly nothing,” the source said. “This goes in the direction of the suddenness, the immediacy of the event.”

CBS News also reported an explosion was captured on the recorder, and that Russian officials have requested the help of the FBI to investigate the crash.

Officials have stressed that the cause of the crash has not yet been pinpointed, but that evidence suggests it may have been brought down intentionally with a bomb.

Just now. @CBSNews has learned Russians have requested @FBI support, most likely for its bomb analysis expertise in #russianplane probe.

— Charlie Kaye (@CharlieKayeCBS)

The U.S. will increase security measures for U.S.-bound flights from airports in the Sinai Peninsula, the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.

In a statement, Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh C. Johnson, announced that the additional security measures were identified “out of an abundance of caution” while the Metrojet cash was still under investigation.

Johnson said that measures would be put into place for commercial flights bound for the U.S. from “certain foreign airports” in the Sinai Peninsula region where the crash occurred. There are no direct commercial flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the U.S., but the measures were “designed to provide an additional layer of security for the traveling public,” Johnson said.

The measures include expanded screening for items on the aircrafts, airport assessments and offers of assistance in airport security and other safety measures to certain foreign airports.

“While we cannot discuss the full details of our aviation security measures, or the enhancements noted today, I want to assure the traveling public that the Department of Homeland Security is working closely with our domestic and international partners to evaluate the cause of the crash of Flight 9268, and will continue to take appropriate precautionary security measures,” Johnson said.

First plane from Sharm el-Sheikh arrived in the UK, since all flights were stopped over security concerns, BBC reported.

Passengers arriving at London Gatwick Airport on Friday evening. Fiona Rutherford / BuzzFeed News

The EasyJet flight was one of eight scheduled services to fly from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK on Friday, Egypt said. It is due to arrive in Luton. This was the first plane to fly out of the Sinai Peninsula since UK authorities suspended all flights on Wednesday after concerns that the Russian plane was brought down by a bomb.

Monarch, Thomas Cook, Thomson, British Airways and EasyJet will operate the other seven flights scheduled to fly to the UK on Friday, the BBC reported.

“It was awful being stranded out there, the British embassy were absolutely useless,” Becky, a passenger arriving back in England from Sharm el-Sheikh told BuzzFeed News’ Fiona Rutherford who met flights arriving at London Gatwick.

“I’m so happy to be home, I’m not even feeling the cold. I’m just happy to be here,” said Lucy, who arrived at Gatwick with her husband and daughter.

ABC reported Egyptian government officials as saying that the bomb causing the plane crash was the “most plausible scenario.”

#Egypt government official tells @ABC authorities can no longer dismiss possibility #EgyptCrash caused by bomb: "most plausible scenario"

— Jon Williams (@WilliamsJon)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed with the head of the country’s security bureau’s suggestion that all flights to Egypt be suspended, AP reported.

BREAKING: Russian President Putin has agreed to a recommendation to suspend all Russian flights to Egypt.

— The Associated Press (@AP)

When asked if the decision to suspend flights to Egypt means the theory that a bomb brought down the plane was the most likely, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said, “Of course it doesn’t mean that,” Interfax, a Russian news agency, reported.

“As before, no theory dominates, as there are no clear indications in favor of that version,” Peskov said.

The head of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (FSB) Alexander Bortnikov on Friday suggested Russia will temporarily suspend all flights to Egypt in the wake of last week’s plane crash in Sinai.

Head of #FSB at Russian anti-terror committee meeting: I suggest temporarily halting all Russian flights to #Egypt.

— Ilya Petrenko (@ilpetrenko_rt)

So far, Russia has been skeptical of claims the crash could have been caused by a bomb placed in the hold of the plane at Sharm El-Sheikh airport — concerns which led to the U.K. government grounding British flights from the resort Thursday.

However, during an anti-terror committee meeting Friday afternoon, Bortnikov said “it would be reasonable” to put a short-term halt on flights in place, “until the true causes of the air crash are established” AP and Interfax reported.

He added that authorities would need “absolutely objective and confirmed data” on the cause of the crash.

Egypt’s civil aviation authority said that only 8 of the planned 29 U.K.-bound flights from Sharm El-Sheikh airport would take off today, including two EasyJet flights which have already departed, according to The Guardian.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal told AP the capacity issues are due to the airport’s inability to deal with hold luggage left behind by British flights: “This big volume will affect the smooth operation of the rest of the domestic and international flights.”

British tourists have been left in limbo with the confusion surrounding canceled and delayed flights in Sharm El-Sheikh, BuzzFeed News’ Rossalyn Warren writes. U.K. ambassador to Egypt John Casson was involved in an angry confrontation at the airport.

Watch: John Casson, British Ambassador to Egypt, is confronted by a furious passenger at Sharm el Sheikh airport https://t.co/3CsPmwxsFK

— Sky News (@SkyNews)

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesperson has described the situation in Sharm El-Sheikh as “fluid and complex,” and said a broken down plane at the airport has not helped repatriation efforts. BuzzFeed News’ Emily Ashton reports from Westminster:

PM's spokesman ducks repeated qs on whether Egyptians blocked Easyjet from landing at Sharm. "Clearly this is a fluid & complex situation."

— Emily Ashton (@elashton)

Instead No 10 takes pop at Easyjet. "Airlines need to work closely with us to ensure information they're giving to passengers is accurate"

— Emily Ashton (@elashton)

No 10 says broken-down plane at Sharm has made situation worse. But confirms 1st flight has left."British passengers are on their way home."

— Emily Ashton (@elashton)

The Downing Street spokesman said talks with the Egyptian authorities are ongoing:
“There are discussions that are ongoing, I’m not getting in depth. Clearly this is a fluid situation on the ground. It’s not been helped by a broken-down plane at the airport as well which is further causing issues with getting planes in and out.”

Despite the chaos unfolding in Sharm El-Sheikh, the spokesman said the Prime Minister stood by Thursday’s decision to ground flights in the resort: “When the PM was speaking he made clear he understood how frustrating this was for anyone caught up in this situation but that ultimately his priority absolutely must be their safety. And when presented with credible evidence that the Russian plane crash at the weekend potentially could have been the result of a bomb meant that he took this decision and he remains firmly of that view.”

Confusion now reigns over the status of British repatriation flights scheduled to leave Sharm El-Sheikh airport Friday, after budget airline EasyJet said it grounded eight out of ten of flights scheduled to leave the resort.

Britain’s ambassador to Egypt John Casson told reporters at Sharm El-Sheikh airport that no flights have been canceled, despite EasyJet’s earlier statement.

Monarch Airlines, who also operate flights between the U.K. and Sharm El-Sheikh said they believed all their flights from the resort would take off as scheduled Friday. “As far as we are aware all five of our planes are going to take off as scheduled and we have not heard anything to change that from the Egyptian authorities,” Monarch officials said, according to ITV News.

Egypt’s aviation ministry also denied it had blocked flights from taking off at the airport, saying instead they were limited by capacity. A ministry spokesman told Reuters: “Flying out thousands of people on one day is incredibly hard. Everyone has to go through the procedures. We have not cancelled any flights but the airport cannot handle all these planes at once.”

EasyJet confirmed to BuzzFeed News they stand by their original statement.

Meanwhile, the first of the two EasyJet flights still scheduled to leave Sharm El-Sheikh has departed.

EasyJet now says first repatriation flight has taken off from Sharm https://t.co/17fP55ElQn

— Adam Blenford (@adamblenford)

British airline EasyJet cancelled flights into Sharm El-Sheikh Friday morning, saying Egyptian authorities had suspended U.K. flights into the resort. The move will scupper the U.K. government’s plans to repatriate stranded tourists.

EasyJet

The company posted a statement to passengers on the front page of its website:

The Egyptian authorities have currently suspended UK airlines from flying into Sharm El Sheikh, which means that your flight will not now operate today.

We are working with the UK Government at the highest level on a solution. In the meantime we are also developing a contingency plan so we can bring you home as early as possible as soon as we get permission to fly.

We understand this is extremely frustrating for you, but please stay in your hotel and be assured we will cover the costs of your accommodation and reasonable expenses.

We will keep you updated as soon as we have more information. While this is outside of our control, we apologize and would like to thank you for your understanding and patience.

An EasyJet statement emailed to BuzzFeed News said that two of the ten planned flights from Sharm El-Sheikh would continue to operate:

The Egyptian authorities have currently suspended UK airlines from flying into Sharm el Sheikh. This means that eight of easyJet’s 10 planned flights today will no longer be able to operate.

We are working with the UK Government at the highest level on a solution. In the meantime we are also working on a contingency plan so we can operate as soon as we receive permission to fly.

Two flights will be departing from Sharm el Sheikh shortly which are as follows:

EZY9398 Sharm el Sheikh to London Luton

EZY9854 Sharm el Sheikh to London Gatwick

This means that we will get 339 passengers home today.

EasyJet put an updated statement on their website a short while later:

The situation in Sharm el Sheikh has changed and rescue plans that were put in place yesterday have been suspended by the Egyptian authorities. Discussions are currently on-going at the highest political level to resolve this situation. We are very sorry and understand that this is extremely frustrating for you – unfortunately the situation is outside of easyJet’s control. Please stay or make your way back to the hotel you have been staying in, and be assured we will pick up the cost of this.

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