The Slatest

Authorities Consider Terrorism, Technical Failure as Possible Causes of Russia Plane Crash

Debris belonging to the A321 Russian airliner are seen at the site of the crash in Wadi el-Zolmat, a mountainous area in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Nov. 1, 2015.  

Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

Russian and Egyptian investigators are working to try to figure out what happened to a Russian airliner that crashed on Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula. Russia’s transport minister arrived in Egypt on Sunday with a team of experts to help in the investigation of the crash. All 224 people on board—four Ukrainians, one Belarusian, and 219 Russians—were killed. All options remain open. The investigators made clear in a statement that they will analyze all possible scenarios for the crash, notes Reuters. For now, government officials and airline executives consider both mechanical failure and terrorism as possible causes for the attack, reports the New York Times.

A group claiming to speak for ISIS posted a statement online hours after the crash claiming that “soldiers of the caliphate were able to bring down a Russian plane above Sinai province.” But both Russian and Egyptian officials are playing down the allegations, saying there is still no evidence that the plane was brought down by terrorists. Russia’s transport minister, Maksim Sokolov, immediately said the claim “can’t be considered accurate.” Egypt’s ambassador to the United Kingdom also dismissed the claims, telling Sky News that “no terrorist organisation has the capacity to target a plane at 30,000ft.”

A spokesman for the Egyptian army, Mohamed Samir, also pushed back against the claims. “They can put out whatever statements they want but there is no proof at this point that terrorists were responsible for this plane crash,” he said, according to the Guardian. “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.”

For now, most airlines seem to prefer to play it safe. Three major international airlines—Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and Emirates—have said they will be diverting flights from the Sinai airspace as a precaution, reports the Washington Post.

The Associated Press spoke to an Egyptian ground service official who carried out a pre-flight inspection of the Metrojet plane and insisted everything was fine before the plane took off. But the co-pilot apparently complained about the plane’s conditions. A woman described as the wife of the co-pilot told a Russian TV channel that her daughter “called him up before he flew out. He complained before the flight that the technical condition of the aircraft left much to be desired.”

There have also been reports that the pilot requested an emergency landing shortly before the plane began to descend quickly. But Egyptian authorities say there is nothing on the record to back up that claim. “There was nothing abnormal before the plane crash,” Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamel said, reports CNN. “It suddenly disappeared from the radar.”