Reports from Egypt have it that a Russian airliner has crashed in central Sinai with about 271 passengers and seven crew members on board.
Confirming this to BBC was the office of Egypt’s prime minister, which stated that the Airbus A-321 had just taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, on its way to the Russian city of St Petersburg.
As at the time of filing this report, it was not clear yet where the plane crashed, as some suggested that it may have disappeared over Cyprus.
Most of the passengers on the plane operated by the Russian airline, Kogalymavia, were said to be Russian tourists.
The Airbus A-321 had just left the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, bound for the Russian city of St Petersburg.
Wreckage was found in the Hasana area and bodies removed, along with the plane’s “black box”. An official described a “tragic scene” with bodies of victims still strapped to seats.
Egypt’s prime minister said no “irregular” activities were to blame.
Sinai has an active militant network, and on Saturday afternoon, jihadis allied to the so-called Islamic State made a claim on social media that they brought down flight KGL9268.
But Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov told Interfax news agency that “such reports cannot be considered true”. No evidence had been seen that indicated the plane was targeted, he said.
Egypt’s civilian aviation ministry said the plane had been at an altitude of 9,450m (31,000ft) when it disappeared.
Security experts say a plane flying at that altitude would be beyond the range of a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile (Manpad), which Sinai militants are known to possess.
But the German carrier Lufthansa said it would avoid flying over Sinai “as long as the cause for today’s crash has not been clarified”. On Saturday evening, Air France said it was following suit.
British Airways and easyJet said their routes were regularly reviewed, but that they had no plans to alter their routes to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
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