Monday 23 September 2019

Russian crash: Isil says it caused Russian plane crash in new audio but tests show 'no explosive residue'

Cockpit recordings reveal "uncharacteristic sounds" in final moments of disaster in Sinai which killed 224 people

Emergency services personnel working at the crash site of a A321 Russian airliner in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula
Emergency services personnel working at the crash site of a A321 Russian airliner in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula
Investigators probe the site of the crash
In this Russian Emergency Situations Ministry photo, made available on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015 Russian Emergency employees collect personal belongings of a plane crash victims at the crash site of a passenger jet bound for St. Petersburg in Russia that crashed in Hassana, Egypt, on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015

Wilayat Sinai, an affiliate of Isil based in Sinai, have claimed responsibility for the downing of Flight 7K9268 this morning, according to Syria analysts, who shared the audio message.

However, preliminary tests on bodies recovered from the crash site have not revealed any traces of explosives on Flight 7K9268, a Russian news agency has reported.

"Preliminary tests did not reveal traces of explosive on the bodies of those killed," a Russian source inside the centre carrying out forensic tests on the remains told Tass late last night.

The message, thought to be the voice of Abu Osama Al-Masri, confirms the claim of responsibility that was made on Saturday, saying "we downed it so die in your rage".

"We are under no obligation to explain how it came down," the voice says.

"Bring the wreckage and search it, bring your black boxes and analyse them, and tell us the results of your investigation."

It added: "Prove that we didn't bring it down, and how it came down. We will detail how it came down at the time of our choosing."

It also says that the group will release proof for their claim in their own time.

An Egyptian expert separately said that the bodies showed "no signs of external impact," the agency said.

If true, the findings would appear to support - but by no means prove - the theory that the Airbus A321 was destroyed by some kind of structural or mechanical failure, rather than a bomb.

The Egyptian source's comments also appear to undermine assertions by Metrojet executives that only an "external" influence on the aircraft could have brought it down.

Splits have emerged between Russia and Egypt as Cairo rejected Russian investigators’ conclusion that a Metrojet airliner had broken up in mid-air before crashing.

Four days into the investigation into the fate of Flight 7K9268, the Egyptian government said there was no evidence to support claims by Russian officials that the Airbus A321 “broke up in the air”. It is the most public rift to date between the two governments, which initially both strongly suggested the aircraft had been brought down by a technical fault, only to concede later that foul play was a possibility.

As investigators from both countries began examining the plane’s black boxes, the Russian news agency Interfax reported that a cockpit recorder had picked up sounds of chaos in the flight’s final moments.

"Judging by the recording, a situation onboard developed suddenly and unexpectedly for the crew, and as a result the pilots did not manage to send a distress signal," a source said.

An Egyptian doctor who examined around half of the 224 bodies said that about one in five of the corpses had been badly burned in the moments before death.

The finding suggests that a fire broke out in the cabin while the plane was still the air but the doctor was not able to firmly conclude what caused the fire.

Meanwhile, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that speculation the flight had been brought down by the Islamic State (Isil) was "false propaganda" intended to damage Egypt's image.

A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin said there was no evidence of terrorism and it was "inappropriate" to speculate on whether the flight may have been downed in revenge for Russia's intervention in Syria.

US intelligence said their satellites had detected a mid-air flash as the aircraft went down but were able to rule out a missile strike because there was no tell-tale heat trail coming from the ground.

The flash could be the explosion of a bomb going off but could also be a mechanical breakdown, like an fuel tank erupting, the American officials said.

Security has been stepped up at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, where the Metrojet flight took from 23 minutes before being lost to radar.

Long queues waited at a security check but British tourists said they did not mind as long as it kept them safe. "I'd rather to wait for careful check​ and return back home safely and not have my plane crashed." said Nick Matthews.

Metrojet flights to and from Moscow and Nijni Novgorod continued out of Sharm el-Sheikh despite the questions surrounding Flight 7K9268.

In St Petersburg, a second government aircraft carrying human remains, personal belongings, and documents recovered from the crash site arrived early Tuesday morning.

“As of today 140 bodies and more than 100 body parts have been brought to St Petersburg,” said Alexei Smirnov, the head of the national emergency response centre in Moscow.

Nineteen victims had been identified by relatives by yesterday evening, officials said in a briefing. Victims so far identified by relatives include an eight-year old child from the town of Novgorod and Alexander Kopylov, the deputy mayor of the city of Pskov.

The remains have been sent to the morgue at the city’s main crematorium for identification and examination by forensic pathologists before being released to families for burial.

Officials have said it could take weeks to fully identify all 244 victims, and DNA samples were sent to Moscow on Tuesday to held identify some of the most badly damaged remains.

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