Egypt has criticised the UK & US for their failure to share intelligence on the Russian plane crash, as restrictions threaten to cripple the country’s tourism industry.
The Egyptian government has refused to acknowledge that terrorists brought down the Russian passenger jet in the Sinai desert last week, despite America and Britain saying that their intelligence points strongly to the crash being caused by an Islamic State bomb.
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Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, pushed back against international suspicions that the tragedy was an act of terrorism, as intensifying restrictions on air travel threatened to cripple the country’s vital tourism industry.
“We have not dismissed any possibility but there is no hypothesis yet, before the investigations are over and a full report is ready,” Shoukry said on Saturday.
His comments came after several countries decided to block flights to the popular Red Sea resort.
Shoukry said foreign intelligence that had triggered the international travel restrictions had not been shared with Egypt. “We expected that any technical information should have been shared with us, at a technical level, before publicising it in the media,” he said.
Security officials said, however, that they had launched an investigation into local staff and ground crew in Sharm el-Sheikh who had come into contact with the MetroJet Airbus A321 before it crashed 23 minutes after takeoff, killing all 224 people on board.
Egyptian authorities are checking cameras at the resort’s airport for any suspicious activity related to the crash, security officials told Reuters.
“We want to determine if, for instance, anyone sneaked past security officials or the metal detectors. We are also trying to determine if there was any unusual activity among policemen or airport staff,” one of the officials told the agency.
The US has offered to assist the investigation with satellite imagery and other intelligence information, but neither Egypt nor Russia had so far asked for such help, a senior Obama administration official said on Friday.
“As far as I know, we haven’t been asked, as of yet,” the official said.
French sources close to the crash investigation told Agence France-Presse that black box data pointed to a bomb having gone off on board the flight.
A group affiliated to Islamic State, which is known to operate in the Sinai peninsular near to where the plane crashed, claimed responsibility last Saturday. David Cameron has since said UK intelligence services had gathered information suggesting that a bomb “had more likely than not” been the cause of the explosion. He has also grounded all British flights bound for Sharm el-Sheikh.
In a fresh blow to Egypt’s already struggling tourism industry, President Putin announced that Russia has also suspended all flights to and from all airports in Egypt
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