French aviation officials Friday ruled out the possibility that technical failures led to the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 on board, BBC reported. Metrojet flight 9268 was travelling from the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg in Russia last Saturday, when it crashed.
Several theories have been put forward as the reason for the crash, and the BBC report cited other French officials to say that a "violent, sudden" explosion was behind it. A report by BBC on Friday had said that British officials intercepted calls, suggesting that a bomb was placed in the hold of the plane before the Airbus A231 took off. However, Egyptian authorities said that it was too early to jump to conclusions.
A report by NBC Nightly on Friday said, citing U.S. officials, that intelligence had picked up a conversation between operatives of the Islamic State group in Sinai and in Raqqa, Syria, and they were “clearly celebrating” the plane crash. The report also said that before the crash, officials picked up a signal from an ISIS-affiliate in Sinai, which said that there were plans of "something big in the area."
However, the signal did not mention a plane. NBC Nightly also cited another source close to U.S. intelligence as saying that the call was between the operatives of Wilayat Sinai, also known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, who were referred to as one of the “most potent” branches of ISIS, by a U.S. official. An ISIS-affiliate claimed responsibility for bringing down flight 9268, but the Egyptian government denied the claims.
Meanwhile, Kogalymavia, the Russian airliner which operates Metrojet, said Friday, according to Sputnik News, that it will suspend all its passenger flights to Egypt following the crash amid speculations that a bomb might have brought down the plane. The decision comes after Russian president Vladimir Putin suspended passenger planes to Egypt, agreeing to a recommendation from Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
"In connection with the the National Anti-Terrorist Committee decree…. Airline Kogalymavia suspends the flight program to the airports of Arab Republic of Egypt. The ban does not extend to flight operations in Egypt for the purpose of passengers' departure," Kogalymavia reportedly said in the statement.
A Friday report by Daily Mail also said that in August, British airliner Thomson’s flight, carrying 189 passengers to Sharm el-Sheikh, had dodged a rocket attack. The flight left from London Stansted and the pilot had taken evasive action after seeing the missile in the air. The report by Daily Mail also added that the plane had landed safely and that the passengers in the plane were not told about the attempted attack against the jet. The missile was also seen by another Thomson plane as it was reaching Sharm el-Sheikh.
“The crew were told the rocket was from an Egyptian military exercise, but with what has happened there is a lot of fear,” a source told Daily Mail, adding: “The incident left staff petrified.”
The company said, according to Daily Mail: “Thomson Airways can confirm that an event was reported by the crew of flight TOM 476 on 23rd August 2015,” adding: “Upon landing into Sharm el-Sheikh, an initial assessment was conducted and the event was immediately reported to the U.K. Department for Transport (DfT) in line with established protocol.”
“The DfT conducted a full investigation in conjunction with other U.K. government experts,” Thomson also said, adding: “After reviewing the details of the case, the investigation concluded that there was no cause for concern and it was safe to continue our flying program to Sharm el-Sheikh.”