LONDON: Five days after a Russian jetliner broke apart high above the Sinai, Russia and Egypt on Thursday dismissed Western suggestions that a terrorist bomb may have caused the crash that killed 224 people, saying the speculation was a rush to judgment.
British prime minister David Cameron, who spoke to the presidents of both countries in the very public dispute, said he had grounded all British flights to and from the Sinai Peninsula because of “intelligence and information” indicating a bomb was the probable reason a Metrojet Airbus A321-200 plane had crashed Saturday in the desert.
British and U.S. officials, guided primarily by intelligence intercepts and satellite imagery, have suggested gingerly it might have been the work of the extremist Islamic State group and its affiliates in the Sinai.
“We don’t know for certain that it was a terrorist bomb … (but it’s a) strong possibility,” Cameron said.
Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi later stood beside him at a news conference following an awkward meeting. Cameron also spoke by phone with Russian president Vladimir Putin to explain that concern for the safety of British citizens had led the government to go public with its suspicions about a bomb.
Russia and Egypt insist the investigation into the crash must run its course before any conclusion is reached. The Metrojet plane crashed 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for St. Petersburg with mostly Russians aboard.
The dispute arose after the US and British intelligence was disclosed Wednesday, just as el-Sissi was heading to London on a previously planned visit his first as president.
Russia complained that intelligence gathered by London and Washington about its jetliner has not been made available.
If Britain had information about a bomb on the plane, it’s “really shocking” that hasn’t been shared with Russia, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, speaking in Moscow.
British officials declined to say what intelligence was shared with other countries.