Egypt denies identification, arrest of Russian plane crash terrorists

Ahram Online , Saturday 30 Jan 2016

Russian airliner crash site
Russian emergency services personnel and Egyptian servicemen working at the crash site of a A321 Russian airliner in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula (File Photo: AFP)

Egypt's interior ministry officially refuted on Saturday media reports claiming that those responsible for the downing of the Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai last October had been identified and arrested.

The security source, quoted in the interior ministry's statement, added that none of the ministry's security apparatuses had arrested any suspects related to the incident.

The statement comes one day after the Kremlin declined to comment on the reports claiming that intelligence officers had established the identities of several persons involved in plotting the attack, including a perpetrator who smuggled explosives aboard the aircraft.

On Friday, Reuters reported statements from sources saying that an EgyptAir mechanic, whose cousin joined the ISIS militant group in Syria, was suspected of planting the bomb on the Russian airliner.

Reuters added that the mechanic was detained, along with two airport policemen and a baggage handler, who were suspected of helping him put the bomb on board.

In same report, however, a senior airline security official denied that any of its employees had been arrested or were under suspicion. An interior ministry official also said that there had been no arrests.

According to Reuters, any formal charges or official Egyptian confirmation that a bomb brought down the Airbus A321 could potentially expose Egypt to compensation payments to the families of the 224 victims who lost their lives in the crash.

To date, Egypt has publicly said it has found no evidence that the MetroJet flight was brought down by terrorism.

However, Russia's security chief Alexander Bortnikov says the aircraft, which took off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh en route to Russia's St Petersburg, was brought down by a home-made bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT.

Militants of an ISIS-linked group battling security forces in Egypt's Sinai said they brought down the aircraft in response to Russian air strikes against Islamist fighters in Syria.

Several other countries, including the UK, have suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, or Egypt altogether, over security fears, prompting concerns that the country's tourism industry – already ravaged by over four years of political turmoil – is now certain to see a huge slump.

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