SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt: Moscow acknowledged Monday for the first time a terrorist attack could have caused last month’s Russian plane crash in Egypt, as thousands more tourists were evacuated from the country.
Britain and the United States, as well as international investigators, suspect a bomb exploded on board the Metrojet A-321 plane, but Egyptian officials insist there is no evidence yet of an attack on the aircraft which jihadists claim to have downed.
Russia had also previously refrained from blaming the crash, which killed all 224 people on board, on terrorists until Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s admission.
“The possibility of an act of terror is of course there as the reason for what happened,” Medvedev said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta state newspaper.
A growing international chorus has backed the theory that the plane was downed in an attack, with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond saying Monday it was “more likely than not” that the plane was downed by an “explosive device placed on board.”
On Monday, Israel — which has strong intelligence links to neighboring Sinai where the Airbus came down while en route from Egypt’s resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg — joined in.
“There is a strong probability that this is an attack,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israeli reporters on Monday.
And Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier said no technical fault has yet been detected for the crash of the A-321.
“I can say that so far, what we got from the investigation didn’t trigger any action, technical action on our side, regarding the A-321 fleet,” said Bregier.
“But we need to wait for the conclusion of the investigations.”
Sources close to the probe have told AFP that experts involved in the investigation, with the exception of the Egyptians, “strongly favor” the theory of a bomb on board.
Egypt has pushed back against mounting international concerns that a bomb brought down the plane, with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry saying it was too early to form a “hypothesis”.