Egyptian investigators said Saturday that the cockpit voice recorder of the Russian plane that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula had been deciphered and "a noise" heard in the last second of the recording would be sent for analysis.
"A spectral analysis will be carried out by specialized labs in order to identify the nature of this sound," Ayman al-Mokadem, the head of the committee, said in Cairo on Saturday.
British and US officials quoted in media reports have suggested that the crash of Metrojet flight 9268 on October 31 was caused by a bomb aboard the plane. Russian authorities have been hesitant to endorse any theory ahead of official results from an ongoing investigation.
Referring to the reports, Al-Mokadem said that his committee had so far received no relevant information or evidence to support the bomb suspicions.
"The committee urges the sources of such reports to provide it with all information that could help us in undertaking our mission," he said. "We are completely ready to receive any information from any party."
The committee was still "in the information gathering phase," he said.
Bad weather had prevented visits to the crash site since Wednesday, but plans were in place to bring the wreckage to Cairo as soon as possible for detailed examination with the assistance of metallurgy specialists.
The scattering of the debris "over a wide area more than 13 kilometres in length" was consistent with an in-flight break-up, al-Mokadem said, but initial findings did not yet allow authorities to identify the cause.
Al-Mokadem said that 58 experts were working on the investigation, including 29 from Egypt. Others specialists came from Russia; from France, where the aircraft was designed; from Germany, the country of its manufacture; and from Ireland, where it was registered.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Samek Shoukri said earlier that his country was being kept in the dark over reported foreign intelligence reports suggesting that a bomb caused the crash.
"This raises a question mark," Shoukri said. "We are the party that is the most closely connected to the issue.
"We expected that the technical information available would be provided to us instead of being broadcast in the media in this general way," he said.
The Airbus A321 was headed from the popular Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh to the Russian city of St Petersburg when it crashed. Almost everyone aboard was Russian.
Russian planes are bringing home thousands of tourists from Egyptian airports, where army personnel are taking control of the repatriation process, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters following Moscow's suspension of Egypt flights.
"Our Egyptian friends have already taken steps [to provide additional security measures], the military took control of the passenger processing to the flights. They are deployed in Sharm el-Sheikh and other airports and minimize uncontrolled activities."
Dvorkovich said that around 80,000 Russian tourists are now in Egypt, updating an earlier figure of 79,000.
Some 10 special flights have been arranged to bring them home, according to the Russian official.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered a halt to all flights to and from Egypt until investigators determine what caused the crash , which killed all 224 people on board.
Egypt's state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported that Russia, Britain, Germany and Italy were sending empty planes Saturday to Sharm el-Sheikh to fly home their own nationals.
According to a breakdown provided by the newspaper, these flights include 22 from Russia, eight from Britain, six from Germany and five from Italy.
An affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group active in Sinai claimed responsibility for the crash, which is the deadliest civil aviation disaster in Russian history.
Sharm el-Sheikh, a beach resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, attracts hundreds of thousands of vacationers every year.
By Ramadan Al-Fatash, Pol O Gradaigh, and Abdel-Nasser Abul Fadl
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