Written by Staff Writer
06 Nov, 2015 | 6:57 am
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday(5) it was increasingly likely a bomb brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt with the loss of 224 lives, and U.S. President Barack Obama said Washington was taking that possibility “very seriously”.
But Moscow, which launched air strikes against Islamist fighters including Islamic State in Syria more than a month ago, said it was premature to reach conclusions that the flight was attacked.
Egypt, which depends on tourism as a crucial source of revenue, said there was no evidence a bomb was to blame.
A Sinai-based group affiliated with Islamic State, the militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, has claimed responsibility for the crash, which if confirmed would make it the first attack on civil aviation by the world’s most violent jihadist organization.
Cameron, who hosted Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday(5) for a previously scheduled visit, said: “We cannot be certain that the Russian airliner was brought down by a terrorist bomb, but it looks increasingly likely that was the case.”
His foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, said it was “a significant possibility” that Islamic State was responsible, given a range of information, including the claim of responsibility.
In a sign of U.S. concern, Obama said in a radio interview: “There’s a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we’re taking that very seriously.”
Britain, Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands have suspended flights to and from Sharm al-Sheikh, leaving thousands of European tourists stranded in the Red Sea resort where the plane took off. A spokesperson for Cameron said later that flights from the resort destination to Britain would resume on Friday(6).
Cairo said the decision to suspend flights was unjustified and should be reversed immediately.
Britain said it was working with airlines and Egyptian authorities to put in place additional security and screening measures at the airport to allow Britons to get home.
If a bomb brought down the Airbus A321 (AIR.PA), that would devastate Egypt’s tourism industry, still recovering from years of political turmoil.
While Egypt has bristled at the suspensions of flights, Sisi said during his visit to London that he understood concerns about safety. He said Cairo had been asked 10 months ago to check security at the airport in Sharm al-Sheikh.
“We understood their concern because they are really interested in the safety and security of their nationals,” he added.
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