December 14, 2015 by Maamoun Youssef - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAIRO – A preliminary investigation into the crash of a Russian passenger plane has found no indication yet of any “illegal or terrorist act,” Egypt’s chief investigator said in a statement released Monday.
The vaguely worded statement by Ayman el-Muqadam said the investigation committee so far has not found “any evidence” indicating foul play in the Oct. 31 downing of the plane, killing all 224 people onboard, mostly Russian vacationers returning home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The committee is “continuing its work,” it said.
Russia has said an explosive device had been placed onboard the Airbus A321-200 and the Sinai branch of the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. The crash led Russia to suspend all flights to and from Egypt, dealing a heavy blow to the country’s vital tourism industry.
El-Muqadam said the investigating committee completed its preliminary report Sunday evening, which contained all available information that will be further investigated.
He said the search for wreckage extended more than 16 kilometres from the main crash site and that the committee provided all parties that are part of the investigation, including the insurance company and Russian working teams, the chance to examine the wreckage.
The investigators analyzed the plane’s 38 computers and two engine computers and is currently checking the technical details of the plane and repairs carried out since it was manufactured in May 1997.
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El-Muqadam said the investigation committee made 15 visits to the crash site, and the team was co-ordinating with the air force to move the wreckage to a safe location in Cairo for further study.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment directly on the Egyptian statement, but told reporters in a conference call, “I can remind you of the conclusion of our experts from the special services, who came to the conclusion that it was a terrorist action.”
Aside from a joint technical investigation into the crash by experts from Egypt, Russia, France and Ireland, the Egyptian authorities also opened an investigation into a possible security breach or infiltration by militants of the Sharm el-Sheikh airport staff, security officials have said.
That investigation has focused on baggage handlers, their security supervisors and also personnel involved in aircraft catering, according to the officials.
Associated Press writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.
Photo: Debris from a Russian Metrojet airplane Nov. 1, 2015 near Hassana, Egypt. The plane crashed 23 minutes after departing Sharm el-Sheikh enroute to St. Petersburg. PHOTO BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS