US, UK Say Bomb Caused Russian Plane Crash

US, UK Say Bomb Caused Russian Plane CrashUS, UK Say Bomb Caused Russian Plane Crash

Egyptian police carried out detailed security checks on Friday at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh, the resort from where the doomed Russian plane took off last weekend, after UK officials confirmed that flights will start bringing stranded British tourists home from the Sinai Peninsula.

The measures follow the crash last Saturday of Metrojet’s Airbus A321-200 that killed all 224 people on board. The plane crashed 23 minutes after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg, with mostly Russian tourists aboard.

Russia and Egypt have dismissed Western suggestions that a bomb may have caused the crash, saying the speculation was a rush to judgment and insisting the investigation must run its course, AP reported.

The United States and British leaders have stopped short of a categorical assignment of blame in the crash, but Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday it was “more likely than not” that the cause was a bomb.

The crash prompted companies to ground flights from and to the Red Sea resort, stranding thousands of tourists.

On Friday morning, dozens of buses waited outside the Sharm el-Sheikh airport, the line stretching up to a kilometer as police inspected each vehicle, with mostly Russian and British tourists.

Britain has said that additional security measures would be in place, including only allowing passengers to carry hand baggage, while checked luggage will be transported separately. The carry-on measure applies only to those departing from Sharm el-Sheikh, British officials said.

In an unusual decision, Dutch carrier KLM said it has instructed its passengers leaving from the Egyptian capital of Cairo that they can only take hand luggage on the plane departing Friday. A statement on KLM’s website says the measure is “based on national and international information and out of precaution.”

There were no further details and it was unclear why such measures would be imposed at the Cairo airport.

Security officials at the Cairo airport told AP that flight KL554 left for Amsterdam on Friday morning with only 115 passengers out of the 247 who were booked. The rest refused to leave without taking their check-in bags, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama said the US was taking “very seriously” the possibility that a bomb brought down the plane.

The IS militant group, which has not generally pursued “spectacular” attacks outside its base in Syria, has claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane, but Russian and Egyptian officials say the claim was not credible. Russia is conducting an air war in Syria against IS militants who have promised retaliation.

Earlier this week, two US officials told the AP that images from US satellites detected heat around the jet just before it went down. The infrared activity could mean several things, including a bomb blast or an engine exploding because of a mechanical breakdown.

Egypt, which stands to lose millions of dollars from its vital tourism industry, maintains there is nothing wrong with the airport facility at Sharm el-Sheikh, which each year welcomes thousands of vacationers to the resort beside the crystal-clear Red Sea.