Egypt resumed search-and-rescue operations on Sunday in hopes of finding survivors from a Russian passenger plane that crashed one day earlier in the Sinai Peninsula.
Early Saturday, a Russian Airbus A321 aircraft -- operated by Russian airliner Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet -- crashed shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, presumably killing all 224 people on board.
Egyptian officials have suggested the crash may have been caused by a technical failure.
A Sinai-based group said to be linked to the Daesh militant organization, however, issued a statement late Saturday in which it claimed to have shot down the plane in response to ongoing Russian military intervention in Syria.
Following the claim, three airlines -- Emirates, Air France and Lufthansa -- have suspended their flights over the volatile peninsula until the exact causes of the crash are determined.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, for his part, urged world capitals not to jump to conclusions regarding the causes of the crash.
“It’s very important to look into the causes of the accident… we should be very careful about making any [premature] announcements,” Shoukry said late Saturday upon his arrival from Vienna, where he had attended talks on the Syrian conflict.
Cairo’s top diplomat went on to urge countries “not to take measures that might give a certain impression that runs counter to reality”.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was premature to discuss possible causes of the crash, adding that an examination of the plane's black box would reveal why the aircraft went down.
Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov, meanwhile, said the Daesh-linked group’s claim “can’t be considered reliable”, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
A Russian delegation arrived in Egypt on Sunday to aid in ongoing efforts to determine the reasons for the plane crash.
The Russian embassy in Cairo has said the crash left no survivors, while the Egyptian authorities have said that 163 bodies had so far been extracted from the wreckage.
Egyptian investigators on Saturday combed through the debris looking for clues, while Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said the plane’s two black boxes had been recovered.
According to Kamal, communication between the Russian plane and air-traffic controllers had been normal immediately prior to the crash.
“There was nothing irregular,” he said, denying reports that the pilots had requested an emergency landing just before the plane went down.
The plane crash is expected to deliver another blow to Egypt’s already-reeling tourism industry, which has been hammered by four years of political unrest since a 2011 uprising unseated autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.
In recent years, nearly three million Russians have visited Egypt annually.
From January to July of this year, nearly 1.6 million Russian tourists visited the country, according to Egypt’s official statistics agency.
In 2004, an Egyptian charter plane crashed into the Red Sea shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to Paris, killing all 148 people -- mostly French tourists -- on board.
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