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Leader rejects IS claim of crash responsibility

By Agence France-Presse in Moscow | China Daily | Updated: 2015-11-04 07:48

 Leader rejects IS claim of crash responsibility

Russia's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, outside Moscow's Kremlin Wall in Moscow, is one of the Russian sites that mourners have been visiting with flowers, pictures, stuffed animals and paper planes since Kogalymavia Airbus 321 crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board. Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press

US intelligence chief says militant group's involvement in jet's downing 'unlikely'

Egypt's president has dismissed claims that a Russian passenger jet was downed by a branch of Islamic State as propaganda, after the airline said the crash, which killed all 224 people on board, was due to "external" factors.

Analysis of the "black boxes", which could reveal what happened to the doomed jet, was expected to begin on Tuesday, according to Egyptian officials. Russia's government commission overseeing the crash probe is also due to meet.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi's remarks came as a top US intelligence official said it was "unlikely" that IS was involved in the crash of the Kogalymavia Airbus A321 over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. "When there is propaganda that it crashed because of ISIS, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt," Sisi told the BBC.

"Believe me, the situation in Sinai - especially in this limited area - is under our full control," he said.

Cairo and Moscow have both played down a claim by Egypt's IS branch that it brought down the plane bound for St Petersburg, Russia, from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

On Monday, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that while he could not rule out IS involvement, he thought it "unlikely".

"We don't have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet," he said.

Investigators are examining possible causes as they comb the remote crash site as part of an Egyptian-led investigation that also involves experts from Russia, Airbus, and Ireland, where the aircraft was registered.

Senior Kogalymavia executive Alexander Smirnov said on Monday that "no technical failures" could account for why the Airbus 321 would have broken up in midair.

"The only explanation is some kind of external action," Smirnov told a news conference in Moscow, adding that the jet was in "excellent technical condition".

He said the firm had ruled out a technical fault or human error and that the plane had sustained "significant damage to its construction that did not allow it to continue the flight".

"The crew totally lost control, and for that reason there was not one attempt to get in contact and report on the accident situation on board," Smirnov said.

Alexander Neradko, head of Russia's aviation authority, criticized the airline's comments, saying they were "premature and not based on any real facts".

Russia said it hoped its crews would complete their search mission at the remote location on Monday evening, where so far investigators have found 12 segments of the plane's fuselage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the crash, Russia's worst air disaster, as a "huge tragedy".

"Without any doubt everything must be done to create an objective picture of events so that we know what happened and can react accordingly," he said.

Painful process

Relatives of the crash victims have begun the painful process of identifying their loved ones after a first plane delivered the remains of 140 victims to St. Petersburg.

A second plane is due to carry the rest of the remains to Russia.

Family members had already been providing DNA samples at a crisis center near St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people have brought flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children.


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