The Metrojet plane which crashed over the Sinai peninsula on Saturday may have been “brought down by an explosive device”.
British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement saying:
“While the investigation is still ongoing, we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed.
“But as more information has come to light, we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.”
The UK is the first nation to make a statement saying it believes a bomb or another device could have brought down the plane.
Downing Street talks between Cameron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are due to begin on Thursday.
Earlier in the week, the Egyptian leader urged caution but dismissed as “propaganda” claims the militant group ISIL brought down the plane.
On Wednesday, however, the jihadists reiterated their claim to responsibility via Twitter, but they say it is not down to them to prove how the alleged attack was carried out.
‘Likely an explosion’
Russian and Egyptian authorities are carrying out an investigation into the fatal flight, which crashed little more than 20 minutes after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board. Its intended destination was Saint Petersburg.
Reuters, citing a source close to the black-box investigation ongoing in Egypt, reports the cause of the crash is likely an explosion, but it is not sure whether fuel or a bomb caused the blast.
“It is believed to be an explosion, but what kind is not clear. There is an examination of the sand at the crash site to try and determine if it was a bomb,” the source is quoted as saying.
“There are forensic investigations underway at the crash site. That will help determine the cause, to see if traces of explosives are found.”
Sharm el-Sheikh-UK flights delayed
Downing Street added that all flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK have been grounded for the moment.
“In light of this, and as a precautionary measure, we have decided that flights due to leave Sharm for the UK this evening will be delayed.
“That will allow time for a team of UK aviation experts, currently travelling to Sharm, to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required.”
David Cameron was chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on the issue on Wednesday evening.
‘Black box’ investigation
Investigators at Egypt’s Civil Aviation Ministry announced on Wednesday that they had extracted and validated the contents of one of the so-called ‘black box’ flight data recorders.
The second black box contains the cockpit voice recorder (CVR). It was partially damaged, experts say, and it took a lot of work to extract data from it.
“Consequently, no further comment on the CVR can be made. Examination of parts on site is continuing,” the ministry said in a statement.
‘Heat flash’ detected
A matter of days after the plane came down, American media reported that a US satellite had detected a heat flash over Sinai at the time of the crash.
Data gleaned from the satellite is reportedly being analysed to determine whether the flash happened during the flight, or on the ground.
The White House has issued a statement saying “there are no US carriers that regularly operate out of the Sinai peninsula”.
Spokesman Josh Earnest said the Federal Aviation Administration had already put an advisory in place in March. It recommends avoiding flying at lower altitudes over the Sinai, citing a potential risk associated with extremist activity.