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Russian jet broke up in sky, says expert, as Isis attack dismissed

By David Mercer

The Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt killing everyone on board broke up at high altitude, a top aviation official has said.

The Metrojet plane bound for St Petersburg crashed 23 minutes after it took off from Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday morning.

The 224 people on board, all Russian except for four Ukrainians and one Belarusian, died.

Prime Minister David Cameron has told Vladimir Putin that Britain "shared the pain and grief" of the Russian people after the plane crash in Egypt which killed more than 220 people.

Mr Cameron called the Russian president to "express his condolences" this morning after the plane bound for St Petersburg crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, a Downing Street spokesman said.

Plane fragments were found scattered over a large area, indicating it disintegrated high in the air, said Alexander Neradko, head of Russia's federal aviation agency.

Mr Neradko and two Russian cabinet ministers were in Egypt inspecting the crash site in a remote part of the northern Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt is fighting an Islamic insurgency. A local affiliate of Islamic State (IS) claimed it "brought down" the aircraft, but Russia's transport minister dismissed the claim. The militants did not offer any evidence to back up their claim. But Mr Neradko would not comment on a possible reason for the crash, saying the probe was ongoing.

Yesterday, an Egyptian ground service official who conducted a pre-flight inspection of the Airbus A321-200 said the plane appeared to be in good condition. The Egyptian official said he was a member of a technical inspection team that included two Russians. "We are all shocked. It was a good plane. Everything checked out in 35 minutes," the official said.

But a Russian TV channel quoted the wife of the co-pilot as saying her husband had complained about the plane's condition.

Natalya Trukhacheva, identified as the wife of co-pilot Sergei Trukhachev, said a 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."

Another Egyptian official had previously said that before the plane lost contact with air traffic controllers, the pilot had radioed and said the aircraft was experiencing technical problems and that he intended to try and land at the nearest airport.

In St Petersburg, hundreds of people brought flowers and pictures to the city's airport to commemorate the 224 victims.

Emirates, Lufthansa and Air France have said they have stopped flying over the Sinai Peninsula until more is known about the cause of the crash.

But easyJet said it will continue to fly holidaymakers to the popular resort of Sharm el-Sheikh "as planned".

British Airways said it could not comment on "exact flight routes".

Belfast Telegraph


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