Emirates Halts Flights Over Sinai as Russian Investigators Arrive in Egypt

Emirates' decision follows Lufthansa and Air France, who said they would immediately stop flying over Sinai until cause of crash that left 224 dead confirmed.

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Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail looks at the remains of a Russian airliner after it crashed in central Sinai near e-lArish city, north Egypt, October 31, 2015.
Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail looks at the remains of a Russian airliner after it crashed in central Sinai near e-lArish city, north Egypt, October 31, 2015.Credit: Reuters
The Associated Press

Dubai-based Emirates, the Middle East's biggest carrier, says it has stopped flying over Egypt's Sinai until more is known about the crash of a Russian airliner in the rugged peninsula. Meanwhile, investigators from Moscow arrived in Egypt to probe the cause of the crash that killed over 200 Russian tourists.

The airline made the announcement Sunday, the day after the crash of the Russian plane, which had taken off 23 minutes earlier from the popular Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people on board died.

Egyptian soldiers stand guard as rescuers carry bodies of victims of a plane crash from a civil police helicopter to ambulances at Kabrit airport in Suez, Egypt, Oct. 31, 2015.Credit: AP

The cause of the crash was not yet known. A local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed it "brought down" the aircraft, but Russia's transport minister dismissed the claim.

Two major European airlines, Germany's Lufthansa and Air France, said Saturday that they would immediately stop flying over Sinai for safety reasons until the cause of the crash was determined.

Meanwhile, Russian's transport minister and a team of high-level investigators has arrived Sunday in Cairo to help Egyptian authorities determine what caused a airliner to crash.

The Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was flying from the Red Sea resort to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in central Sinai soon after daybreak on Saturday.  It crashed into a mountainous area shortly after losing radar contact near cruising altitude.

Russian national flag is flown at half-mast on top of the Senate Building in Kremlin on the day of national mourning in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Credit: AP

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told a news conference on Saturday that there did not appear to be any unusual activity behind the crash but that the facts would not be clear until further investigations had been carried out.

At least 163 bodies had already been recovered and transported to various hospitals including Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, according to a cabinet statement.

Search efforts resumed at the crash site early on Sunday morning and Russian experts were already at the site helping to recover bodies and begin investigations into the cause.

Russian investigators had already visited the morgue, a security source said.

Emergency services and aviation specialists searched the wreckage on Saturday for any clues to the crash. Both black boxes had been recovered, Egypt's civil aviation minister said.

The Russian flag could be seen flying at half-staff over the Russian embassy in Cairo on Sunday morning. The passengers included 214 Russians and three Ukrainians. 

Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months. Much of the Sinai is a restricted military zone. 

Militants in the area are not believed to have missiles capable of hitting a plane at 30,000 feet. Islamic State websites have in the past claimed responsibility for actions that have not been conclusively attributed to them. 
Officials say there is no evidence to suggest that a bomb could have brought down the plane. 

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