Claim that ‘Islamic State’ caused plane crash ‘propaganda’, says Egypt president


Claims by the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group that it caused a Russian passenger plane to crash, killing all 224 people on board, are “propaganda” aimed at damaging Egypt’s image, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has said.

He added that the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula is under “full control”.

In an interview with the BBC released on Tuesday, Mr el-Sissi also reiterated his assertion that the cause of the crash may not be known for months and that, until then, it should not be speculated on.

‘Islamic State’ militants said on the day of the crash that they had “brought down” the Russian plane to avenge those killed as a result of Moscow’s recent air campaign in Syria, launched in support of IS adversary President Bashar Assad.

But the group did not provide any evidence to back up its claim, and militants in northern Sinai have not to date shot down commercial airliners or fighter jets.

Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in Cairo has instructed its staff not to travel anywhere in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as a “precautionary measure”, pending the outcome of the investigation into the crash.

In a statement issued late on Monday, the embassy said it will issue another message when the security measure is lifted.

The Russian Airbus plane, operated by airline Metrojet was flying from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. Mystery and confusion surrounds the flight’s final moments and speculation includes a technical problem, structural failure, fire, bomb or an attack by Islamic militants on the ground.

In Russia, a deputy governor of St Petersburg, where most of the passengers were from, said the first nine bodies flown back to the city have been identified.

Russian news agencies on Tuesday quoted Igor Albin as saying that the families had identified the bodies.

Mr Albin said identification of all of the victims could take several weeks.

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