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Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for downing Russian passenger plane

Emergency services have found no survivors of the 224 people on board.

Updated at 3.08pm

shutterstock_28655413 File photo of an Airbus-321 Source: Shutterstock/Dejan Milinkovic

AN ISLAMIC STATE affiliate group has claimed responsibility for downing a Russian passenger plane in the Sinai peninsula, where the jihadists are waging an insurgency.

“The soldiers of the caliphate succeeded in bringing down a Russian plane in Sinai,” said the statement from the group.

Russia’s transport minister has said the claim can’t be “considered accurate”, while a spokesperson for Egypt’s military said there is “no proof at this point”.

Emergency services have reached the wreckage. They say that there are no survivors of the 224 people on board. This includes 17 children.

The plane with 214 Russian and three Ukranian passengers, and seven crew, had taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the south Sinai bound for Saint Petersburg. It lost contact with air traffic control 23 minutes later.

Reuters reports that the plane split in two and landed vertically. Despite claims from IS, a security source told the agency that the crash was due to a “technical fault”.

Egyptian security and medical officials said there were no survivors from flight 7K9268, and that the bodies of the passengers and debris were spread out over an area of five square kilometres.

The Russian embassy in Cairo said:

Unfortunately, all passengers of Kogalymavia flight 9268 Sharm el-Sheikh-Saint Petersburg have died. We issue condolences to family and friends.

The Russian emergency ministry published a list of names of the passengers, ranging in age from a 10-month-old girl to a 77-year-old woman.

The Egyptian government said 15 bodies had been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far.

Although leased to a Russian airline, the plane is registered in Ireland, flying with registration number EI-ETJ.

A senior Egyptian air traffic control official said the pilot told him in their last communication that he was having trouble with the radio system. The pilot had reported his intention to attempt to land at the nearest airport.

The Airbus 321 came down in the Hassana area, roughly 100 kilometres south of the North Sinai town of El-Arish, where Egyptian forces are currently fighting an insurgency from the so-called Islamic State group.

The Russian government has sent an investigations team to the site, and declared a day of mourning. The Israeli Defence Force is also assisting with the search.

The IS affiliate, which is waging a deadly insurgency in the Sinai, claimed that “the soldiers of the caliphate succeeded in bringing down a Russian plane” there.

It said this was in revenge for Russian air strikes against militants in Syria, where IS controls territories that straddle Iraq.

Three military experts said IS in Sinai does not have surface-to-air missiles capable of hitting a plane at high altitude.

But they could not exclude the possibility of a bomb on board or a surface-to-air missile strike if the plane had descended for an emergency landing.

PastedImage-64874 The last known location of flight 7K9268. Source: FlightRadar24

Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail had canceled a visit to the city of Ismailiya and formed an operations room to follow up on the situation.

Sergei Lzvolsky, an official with the Russian aviation agency Rosaviatsia told Interfax news agency that the plane had departed Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh at 5:51 am local time (03:51 GMT).

Russia’s Investigative Committee said it had launched a criminal probe into any possible violation of air safety rules, a standard procedure when air crashes involving Russian planes occur. It is also sending investigators to the scene

Airbus A321-231 TUI Russia Metrojet EI-ETJ A photo of the EI-ETJ plane with MetroJet livery, pictured here in 2013. Source: Curimedia | P H O T O G R A P H Y via Flickr/Creative Commons

He said the aircraft did not make contact as expected with air traffic controllers in Cyprus, and “since then the plane has not made contact and has not appeared on radars”.

Prior to confirmation from the Egyptian prime minister, it was reported that the company operating the flight was able to confirm the flight was safely flying through Turkish airspace. It was also believed the plane may have crashed near Cyprus.

© – AFP 2015. With reporting by Nicky Ryan and The Associated Press.

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