Egypt and Russia reacted angrily to the speculation, saying it was premature while an investigation was ongoing, but Russia’s decision Friday to suspend its flights to all of Egypt are likely to only increase speculation about what downed Flight 9268.
Updated on November 6 at 9:07 a.m.
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This is a developing story and will be updated based on new information.
Updated on November 6 at 9:00 a.m.
The head of the FSB, Russia’s internal security service, is recommending that all Russian flights to Egypt be halted while an investigation determined what caused a Russian passenger jet to crash last weekend, killing 224 people.
“As long as we haven’t established the causes of the incident, I consider it appropriate to suspend the flights of Russian aircraft to Egypt,” FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov told a meeting of the Russian Anti-Terror Committee on Friday. “This primarily applies to the tourist flow.”
The British airline EasyJet says two of its flights have left the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with 379 passengers, while Egyptian authorities aren’t allowing seven others to operate. EasyJet and other British airlines are trying to return an estimated 19,000 Britons home after the U.K. suspended outbound flights from the resort city following last weekend’s crash of a Russian plane.
Egyptian and Russian investigators say it’s too early to conclusively say what caused the crash, but Western officials, including President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, say it looks increasingly likely the plane was downed by terrorism. All 224 people on board were killed.
U.K. officials said they were working with their Egyptian counterparts to ensure the scheduled flights leave.
“Our aim is to get as many people home as soon as possible,” John Casson, the British ambassador to Egypt, said at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
It’s unclear why Egyptian authorities prevented the eight Easyjet flights from operating—Egyptian officials say the Sharm el-Sheikh airport was being overwhelmed—but Britain’s quick attribution of a cause—terrorism—for the Russian plane crash angered both Egypt and Russia. Both countries said the diagnosis was premature since an investigation was ongoing.
But concerns about terrorism could hurt the Egyptian economy, which relies heavily on tourism to places such as Sharm el-Sheikh for revenue. Russia was also angered because of its involvement in the Syrian civil war, in which it is carrying out airstrikes on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad against rebel group, including the Islamic State. It was an Islamic State affiliate that initially claimed responsibility for the Russian crash—a claim that was quickly dismissed by Russia and Egypt.