IS boast over Russian jet crash branded propaganda

Claims by Islamic State that it caused a Russian passenger plane to crash, killing all 224 people on board, are “propaganda” aimed at damaging Egypt’s image, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has said.

Russian emergency minister Vladimir Puchkov visits the crash site yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Russian emergency minister Vladimir Puchkov visits the crash site yesterday. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

He added that the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula is under “full control”.

In an interview yesterday, Mr el-Sissi also reiterated his assertion that the cause of the crash may not be known for months and that, until then, it should not be speculated on.

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IS militants said on the day of the crash that they had “brought down” the Russian plane to avenge those killed as a result of Moscow’s recent air campaign in Syria, launched in support of IS adversary President Bashar Assad.

But the group did not provide any evidence to back up its claim, and militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter jets.

Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in Cairo has instructed its staff not to travel anywhere in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as a “precautionary measure”, pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash.

In a statement issued late on Monday, the embassy said it will issue another message when the security measure is lifted.

The Russian Airbus plane, which was operated by airline Metrojet, was flying from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. Mystery and confusion surrounds the flight’s final moments and speculation includes a technical problem, structural failure, fire, bomb or an attack by Islamic militants on the ground. In Russia the first 10 bodies of victims of the crash have been identified by their families.

Alexei Smirnov, of the Russian emergency situations ministry, said that a total of 140 bodies and more than 100 body parts were delivered to St Petersburg on two government planes on Monday and yesterday and that a third plane is expected to bring more remains later on.

Mourners continued to come to St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport to lay flowers and leave paper planes and soft toys at the arrivals hall.

On the outskirts of town, tearful families of the victims were leaving the premises of the crematorium where the identification was taking place.