Philip Hammond makes most explicit statement so far of belief that bomb caused destruction of flight from Sharm el-Sheikh
There is a “high probability” that a bomb planted by an Islamic State supporter brought down the Russian airliner which crashed over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsulajust over a week ago, according to Britain’s foreign secretary.
Drawing one of the most explicit links yet between Isis and the incident, Philip Hammond said that this did not necessarily mean that the attack was directed from the group’s headquarters in Syria.
Rather, he said: “It may have been an individual who was inspired by Isis who was self-radicalised by looking at Isis propaganda and was acting in the name of Isis without necessarily being directed.”
Hammond’s comments, made during an interview with CNN, came as US sources reportedly suggested that Russian communications intercepted by US intelligence agencies show Russia also believes the plane to have been brought down by a bomb.
The intercepts are among pieces of evidence leading US officials to suspect that a device planted on Metrojet Flight 9268 exploded shortly after the Airbus A321 took off from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, according to a report by Reuters.
All 224 passengers and crew were killed when the plane crashed in the desert on 31 October on the way to St Petersburg, Russia. Egypt and Russia have yet to formally announce the cause of the disaster although both have publicly dismissed as premature US and British assessments that a bomb likely was responsible.
Hammond made his comments shortly before he joined his US counterpart, the secretary of state John Kerry, for talks in Washington on Monday.
Arriving for the meeting at the State Department, Hammond said the official cause of the crash would be determined after an Egyptian-Russian investigation of the wreckage.
But he said that the British government had received information about the disaster that had caused it to suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh and to order the evacuation of British tourists there.
Speaking alongside Kerry, Hammond said the pair would discuss “the possibility that the airliner in Sinai was brought down by an explosive device placed on board”.
Only an analysis of the wreckage could determine if a bomb caused the crash, Hammond said.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, pushed back at the weekendagainst international suspicions that the tragedy was an act of terrorism as intensifying restrictions on air travel threatened to damage the country’s vital tourism industry. His comments came after several countries decided to cancel flights to the popular Red Sea resort.
A US government source told Reuters on Monday that neither Russia nor Egypt had accepted an offer from the FBI to assist them in investigating the crash. The FBI offered forensic assistance and other unspecified services to Russia and Egypt, FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said.
French media reported on Friday that the sound of an apparent explosion could be heard on the flight recorder of the airliner, adding to the evidence that a bomb was smuggled aboard.
An Egyptian-led international team of aviation experts, including some from France, successfully recovered the black box flight recorder, from the crash site. Several French media outlets, including the television station France 2, reported that the investigators had listened to it and concluded that a bomb had detonated, which would seem to rule out structural failure or pilot error.