Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Says Bomb ‘More Likely Than Not’ Caused Rus­sian Plane Crash

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

LON­DON — Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron of Bri­tain said on Thurs­day that “more likely than not a ter­ror­ist bomb” had brought down the Rus­sian char­tered jet that broke apart over the Si­nai Penin­sula last Satur­day, de­spite crit­i­cisms from of­fi­cials in Egypt and Rus­sia that his as­sess­ment was pre­ma­ture.

Mr. Cameron de­fended his gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion on Wed­nes­day to sus­pend flights be­tween Bri­tain and the Egyp­tian re­sort city of Sharm el Sheikh. In a joint ap­pear­ance at No. 10 Down­ing Street with the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent, Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi, Mr. Cameron said, “My role is to act in the right way to keep Bri­tish cit­i­zens safe and se­cure.” He did not cite any spe­cific in­tel­li­gence that sug­gests a bomb had caused the crash, which killed all 224 peo­ple on­board.

Mr. Sisi de­clined to crit­i­cize Mr. Cameron but in Cairo, Egyp­tian of­fi­cials did just that. Hos­sam Ka­mal, the Egyp­tian min­is­ter of civil avi­a­tion, said the sug­ges­tion of a bomb was not based on facts — and that there was as yet no ev­i­dence for that the­ory.

The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs said the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment had made the de­ci­sion to halt flights uni­lat­er­ally, with­out con­sult­ing Egypt.

Ear­lier on Thurs­day, in a phone call with Mr. Cameron, Rus­sia’s pres­i­dent, Vladimir V. Putin, also took ex­cep­tion to his com­ments, say­ing that any “as­sess­ment of the causes of the crash should be based on the data” from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Krem­lin said in a state­ment.

While there has been much spec­u­la­tion about what brought down the jet, the cause largely re­mains a mys­tery. Amer­i­can mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said this week that satel­lite sur­veil­lance had de­tected a flash of light as the plane was ripped apart, sug­gest­ing it had been blown up by a bomb, a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure or an ac­ci­den­tal ex­plo­sion of fuel. But coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cials have cau­tioned strongly against jump­ing to pre­ma­ture con­clu­sions.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment es­ti­mated that it could take a week to fly the roughly 20,000 Bri­tish cit­i­zens on the Si­nai Penin­sula back home. Two Bri­tish air­lines, Monarch and Easy­Jet, said that they would run flights to bring stranded tourists back to Bri­tain, but that they had halted all out­bound flights to the Red Sea re­sort.

The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has gone well be­yond that of any other coun­try — in­clud­ing the United States — in its pub­lic as­sess­ment of the crash.

An in­sur­gency af­fil­i­ated with the Is­lamic State has been bat­tling the Egyp­tian mil­i­tary on the penin­sula, which is closed to vis­i­tors with the ex­cep­tion of Sharm el Sheikh.

Mr. Cameron ac­knowl­edged that “we need to see the re­sults” of the Egyp­tian in­ves­ti­ga­tion but he told the BBC: “The de­ci­sions that I’m tak­ing are about putting the safety of Bri­tish peo­ple first.”

Mr. Sisi, stand­ing next to Mr. Cameron in Lon­don, ac­knowl­edged that Bri­tain had pre­vi­ously raised safety con­cerns. “Ten months ago, we were asked by our Bri­tish friends to send teams to Sharm el Sheikh air­port to make sure that all our se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures there were good enough, and to pro­vide ad­e­quate safety and se­cu­rity for our pas­sen­gers,” he said, adding that the Egyp­tian author­i­ties were ready to ad­dress any out­stand­ing con­cerns.

Rus­sian of­fi­cials said on Thurs­day that no the­ory of what had caused the crash could be dis­counted. “Nat­u­rally, all in­for­ma­tion is be­ing ac­cu­mu­lated and de­liv­ered to the chief of state,” the news agency In­ter­fax quoted the Krem­lin’s press sec­re­tary, Dmitri S. Peskov, as say­ing. “Not a sin­gle the­ory can be ruled out, but there are no grounds to de­clare at least one of th­ese the­o­ries more or less re­li­able as of yet. This can be done only by in­ves­ti­ga­tors.”

Asked whether the the­ory that ter­ror­ism felled the plane might af­fect Rus­sian pol­icy in Syria, Mr. Peskov said, “Hy­po­thet­i­cal pre­sump­tions of this kind are to­tally in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron of Bri­tain, left, with Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi of Egypt in Lon­don on

Thurs­day. Dan Kit­wood/Getty Images

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