Egypt marks an­niver­sary of Rus­sia plane bomb­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Egypt marked with a church ser­vice yes­ter­day a year since ji­hadists bombed a Rus­sian air­liner car­ry­ing hol­i­day­mak­ers from a Red Sea re­sort, an at­tack that crip­pled the Arab coun­try’s econ­omy. The Is­lamic State group claimed it brought the plane down on Oc­to­ber 31, 2015, say­ing it had smug­gled ex­plo­sives into the air­craft be­fore its de­par­ture from the re­sort of Sharm El-Sheikh. All 224 peo­ple on board were killed when the bomb went off min­utes af­ter the Metro­jet A-321 had taken off for the Rus­sian city of Saint Peters­burg.

At a ser­vice in a cathe­dral in the re­sort yes­ter­day at­tended by Egyp­tian of­fi­cials and Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador, pri­ests read out prayers next to an al­ter on which flow­ers had been placed. In Saint Peters­burg, rel­a­tives of some of the 244 peo­ple killed at­tended cer­e­monies to mark the dis­as­ter. Mourn­ers lit can­dles at a ser­vice at the north­west­ern city’s Holy Trin­ity Iz­mailovsky Cathe­dral and held a minute of si­lence at 7:14 am (0414 GMT), the ex­act time when the plane dis­ap­peared from the radar.

The cen­tral Saint Isaac’s Cathe­dral also tolled its bells 224 times, while a me­mo­rial con­cert was set to be held in the city later in the day. The head of the Rus­sian Or­tho­dox Church, Pa­tri­arch Kirill, led prayers for the vic­tims in Moscow. Rus­sia re­acted to last year’s dis­as­ter by can­celling all flights to Egypt, and Bri­tain also can­celled flights to the re­sort town, badly af­fect­ing a tourism sec­tor al­ready bat­tered by un­rest fol­low­ing the coun­try’s 2011 revo­lu­tion.

On Novem­ber 17, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found ev­i­dence of a bomb on board, and vowed to pun­ish those re­spon­si­ble. In Fe­bru­ary, his Egyp­tian coun­ter­part Ab­del Fat­tah alSisi ac­knowl­edged for the first time that “ter­ror­ism” caused the crash, although the govern­ment has not yet is­sued an of­fi­cial re­port on its cause. Sisi had pre­vi­ously dis­missed as “pro­pa­ganda” the IS claim that it downed the air­liner.

Rus­sian tourists ‘to re­turn’

On Sun­day, Egypt’s avi­a­tion min­is­ter and Rus­sian am­bas­sador at­tended a cer­e­mony in Sharm El-Sheikh in mem­ory of those killed in the dis­as­ter. The min­is­ter, Sherif Fathy, re­it­er­ated the Egyp­tian govern­ment’s con­do­lences to the rel­a­tives of vic­tims, ex­press­ing “our feel­ings of sor­row and sad­ness over the lives we have lost”. Rus­sian am­bas­sador Serge Kir­pichenko said the “sad­ness is on­go­ing and will never go away”.

The en­voy said he was con­fi­dent flights from Rus­sia would soon re­sume. “We are cer­tain the day and time are ap­proach­ing, and quickly, for the re­turn of Rus­sian tourism to Egypt,” said Kir­pichenko. “We are work­ing on this day and night.” The ban on flights had se­verely im­pacted Egypt’s strug­gling econ­omy, dent­ing its tourist rev­enues at a time it faces a short­age of dol­lars. Cit­i­zens of Rus­sia and Bri­tain make up about 40 per­cent of for­eign tourists to Egypt. In Fe­bru­ary, Prime Min­is­ter Is­mail Sharif told state tele­vi­sion the North African coun­try had al­ready lost up to $1.3 bil­lion since the dis­as­ter. Egypt is still bat­tling the Is­lamist State group’s Egypt branch in the Si­nai Penin­sula. Se­cu­rity ser­vices have not an­nounced any ar­rests re­lat­ing to the air­liner bomb­ing, or pub­licly dis­closed how the bomb was brought on board the plane at Sharm El-Sheikh air­port. In Au­gust, the mil­i­tary an­nounced it killed the head of IS in Si­nai Abu Doaa Al-An­sari. The group’s large-scale at­tacks against po­lice and army check­points and bar­racks have be­come less reg­u­lar in 2016, but they have kept up a cam­paign of road­side bomb­ings in Si­nai. — AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.