Russian plane black boxes point to bomb explosion: Sources
The analysis of the Black boxes recovered from a Russian plane that recently crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula reveals the aircraft was probably brought down by a bomb on board, sources close to the investigation say.
Based on the analysis of flight data and voice recorders, “everything was normal” at first; however, the conditions changed 24 minutes after takeoff and the recordings pointed to “a very sudden explosive decompression,” one source said on Friday.
Another investigator told French TV station France 2 that the sound of an explosion could be heard on the black boxes, stressing that the blast was not consistent with an engine failure.
“The theory of an explosive device, with local complicity, is being taken seriously. Nothing is proven yet, but it is a real possibility,” a European official said after discussing the issue with a Western intelligence agency, Reuters reported.
“They believe that what Daesh is saying has a good chance of being credible,” the official added.
Investigators believe that the bomb was put in the baggage hold of the Airbus A-321, which was flying from the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia’s Saint Petersburg on October 31. All 224 people on board, mostly Russian vacationers, were killed in the crash.
British and US intelligence sources also announced on Friday that they have intercepted “chatter” from suspected militants on board the plane.
An affiliate of the Daesh terrorist group in Egypt has claimed to have downed the plane, but Russian and Egyptian officials have dismissed this claim.
Military experts say militants in Sinai do not have weapons capable of hitting an aircraft at 30,000 feet (9,000 meters), the altitude of the airliner when it lost contact with air traffic control.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered on Friday the suspension of all Russian passenger flights to Egypt.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin agreed with the recommendations of the Federal Security Service, adding that the flights will be suspended until a “proper level of air communication security” is established.
He went on to say that the decision was “solely connected with security” reasons.
The UK, too, has suspended all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh since Wednesday. In a statement, Downing Street said the measure was aimed to allow British experts to assess security.
The possibility of the presence of a bomb in the baggage hold of the Russian plane has caused serious concern for various airline companies.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said during a Friday meeting of a special government staff that the baggage belonging to passengers returning to Russia from Egypt will be transported on board special flights.
“We have to make additional decisions regarding baggage transportation. Except the very essential hand baggage, all other baggage will be transported on board special aircraft in a special procedure,” Dvorkovich said.
“This is necessary to provide as much security to all passengers as possible,” he added.
Italian airline Alitalia, too, suspended freight and mail transport in its aircraft holds at the airport in the Egyptian capital Cairo, citing security reasons.
The airline said it will not accept baggage traveling without an owner as part of reinforced security at the airport.