The Russian aircraft carrying 224 crew and passengers that crashed into the mountains of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday may have been the victim of foul play, according to news outlets in the Middle East. The jetliner reportedly lost contact and went off the radar while it neared cruising altitude. All 224 people on the plane were said to have been killed.
An Islamic terrorist group claiming to be affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which is now operating in post-Arab-Spring Egypt’s Sinai Province, announced in a statement to the news media that it destroyed the plane and killed all of its occupants.
The announcement claims the terrorist act was “in response to Russia’s air strikes that have killed hundreds of Muslims in Syria. However, Russian officials have told the Interfax News Service that the ISIS claims “cannot be considered accurate.”
The passenger aircraft, a French-built Airbus A321, was owned and flown by Russia’s Kogalymavia Airlines as part of its Metrojet fleet. The flight took off from the Arab resort Sharm el-Sheikh in Sinai headed for St Petersburg, Russia when it crashed in central Sinai, according to U.S. counterterrorism analyst Peter Reinstadt.
According to Middle Eastern news sources, the airliner split in half with a small part on the tail end that burst into flames and a larger part that crashed. Most Egyptian and Russian officials are telling reporters that it’s too soon to tell what caused the mysterious crash.
Bodies have already been removed from the crash site and taken to a number of hospitals others were taken to a large morgue in Cairo yesterday evening.
ISIS announced on its social media Twitter page that it brought down the plane and killed all of its crew and passengers. They “tweeted” a message: “You who kill will be killed.”
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and as such launched an air campaign against Syria’s Islamist and secular rebels, including ISIS, one month go.
The Sinai Peninsula is a hotbed of Islamic militants allied with ISIS and Eqypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, who have killed or wounded thousands of Egyptian political officials, soldiers, intelligence agents and police officers.
The Russians claim their intelligence officials believe the Islamist fighters in Sinai do not possess missiles capable of hitting a plane at 30,000 feet. Islamic State websites have in the past claimed responsibility for actions that have not been conclusively attributed to them.