224 killed in Sinai plane crash

On the 31st October, flight KGL9268 crashed and killed all 224 people on board. Among the fatalities were seventeen children

View of the Sinai overlooking Egypt from Southern Israel. Image: David Katz

View of the Sinai overlooking Egypt from Southern Israel. Image: David Katz

On the 31st October, flight KGL9268 crashed and killed all 224 people on board. Among the fatalities were seventeen children. All victims are Russian with the exception of three Ukrainians. Many of the dead were Russian holidaymakers, returning to St. Petersburg from Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists.

This is the latest in a series of high-profile aviation disasters that have occurred recently, notably MH17, shot down over Ukraine, and flight MH370 that disappeared in the Indian Ocean last year.

The debris was found strewn over three kilometres of desert suggesting that the plane didn’t impact the ground intact.

The wreckage of KGL9268, operated by Kogalymavia– known as Metrojet– was found over the Sinai Peninsula, bordering Israel in the Eastern part of Egypt. The debris was found strewn over three kilometres of desert suggesting that the plane didn’t impact the ground intact. It has since been confirmed that the plane suffered a failure in mid-air. This is further confirmed by the fact that no distress signal was sent out, established by Mohamed Rahmi, a spokesperson for the Egyptian authorities to Reuters.

Some passengers are thought to have been killed by an explosion, and recordings have a sudden, abrupt break. Although Russian media commentators had earlier attacked Western statements that a bomb in the luggage hold was the likely cause, the intelligence consensus seems to back this view up.

An unnamed source told Interfax, a Russian news agency, that “sounds uncharacteristic of routine flight were recorded preceding the moment that the aircraft disappeared from radar screens”. So far, both flight recorders containing data from the flight have been recovered and are being examined to shed light on the situation.

Alexander Smirnov- Metrojet deputy general director- has stated that the plane slowed by 186mph and dropped 5000ft after reaching cruising altitude of 32,000ft. This has since been confirmed by commercial air traffic services.

Many theories have been suggested, including terrorism and technical failure. The latter was refuted by the Irish Aviation Authority who said that they had conducted technical tests on the aircraft in April and May concluding that “all certifications were satisfactory at that point in time” according to the Guardian. Metrojet has further enforced this by claiming that there were no grounds to blame human failure for the crash. Both parties are cooperating on the investigation along with Egyptian authorities.

Jets fly at over 30,000 feet and the maximum range for weapons possessed by insurgents is thought to be around 10,000 feet.

An ISIS affiliate group in the Peninsula, known as ISIL-Sinai (Ansar Bait al-Maqdis) claimed responsibility for the tragedy on Saturday. It tweeted that it had hit the airliner in response to Russia stepping up airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria at the end of September. Egyptian authorities have dismissed this as propaganda.

Terrorist group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, now known as Islamic State Sinai Peninsula.  Image: Day Donaldson

Terrorist group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, now known as Islamic State Sinai Peninsula. Image: Day Donaldson

What is known is that the plane didn’t crash from being hit from outside. ISIL-Sinai, is not believed to possess weaponry that can hit a commercial jet. Jets fly at over 30,000 feet and the maximum range for weapons possessed by insurgents is thought to be around 10,000 feet. In a statement to the Guardian, James Clapper- US director of national intelligence- has said that terrorism could not be ruled out but conceded that “no direct evidence” supports this. However, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has asserted that an on-board bomb is highly likely and travel over the region by air has been restricted as of Wednesday.

The Sinai Peninsula is not well integrated into the wider country, with a largely poor and unemployed populace- a perfect breeding ground for discontent.

Egypt has struggled with insurgents since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. In direct response to the resumption of army rule, insurgent groups became much more active, killing hundreds of civilians and police. The Sinai Peninsula is not well integrated into the wider country, with a largely poor and unemployed populace- a perfect breeding ground for discontent. Furthermore, the area is not highly policed due to the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1979. Insurgents are given a virtual free hand, and the Egyptian military has taken heavy casualties in the region.

Very little is known and will continue to be so pending analysis of the flight recorders. So far, Western analysis has relied upon analysis of insurgent communications chatter, and (in leaks to Reuters) interception of Russian communications.

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