The Kremlin rejected ISIS’s claim of responsibility for the downing of a Russian plane in the Sinai peninsula. All 224 people on board died.
The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the crashing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula desert on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow categorically rejects the claim.
“Soldiers of the caliphate were able to bring down a Russian plane above Sinai province,” an ISIS statement read, adding that it was done in response to Russian air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov scoffed at the ISIS claim, telling the Interfax news agency that such assertions “cannot be considered reliable.”
Egypt’s state-run MENA news agency reported that the aircraft took off from Sinai’s Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular tourist destination, at 5:51 a.m. and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after takeoff. The aircraft was headed for St. Petersburg, Russia.
According to an Egyptian aviation official, the pilot had reported technical difficulties before losing contact with air traffic controllers.
Ayman al-Muqadem, a member of the Aviation Incidents Committee, said the pilot had reported his intention to attempt to land at the nearest airport.
“We don’t know any details about it, but obviously the initial reports represent tremendous tragedy, loss, and we extend our condolences to the families and all those concerned,” US Secretary of State John Kerry, who happened to be on a visit to the former Soviet republic of Kyrgystan, stated.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry called his Russian counterpart to express his condolences, stressing his country’s commitment “to uncover the circumstances surrounding the incident, in full cooperation and coordination with the Russian side.”
IDF Spokesperson Peter Lerner said that Israel had assisted Egyptian authorities with aerial surveillance efforts to locate the missing plane. “The IDF has offered continued assistance to both Russia and Egypt if required,” he stated.
Moscow-based Metrojet says the Airbus 321 aircraft that crashed was in good condition and that the pilot was experienced. The plane had received required factory maintenance in 2014, the airline stated on its website.
Air France and German airline Lufthansa said they will no longer fly across the area. A Lufthansa spokeswoman told reporters that the company had decided not to pass over Sinai “as long as the cause for today’s crash has not been clarified.”
The 217 passengers – 138 women, 62 men and 17 children – included three Ukrainians. The rest, as well as the seven crew members, were all Russian citizens.
The Kremlin declared November 1 to be a day of mourning.
By World Israel News Staff
(With files from AP)