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Russian plane crashes in Egypt as ISIS claims responsibility

Russian airliner crashes in Egypt's Sinai.
Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Russian airliner crashes in Egypt's Sinai.

A Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt's central Sinai region early Saturday, with the aircraft found "completely destroyed" and all 224 passengers confirmed dead by local officials.

Radar lost contact with the plane, an Airbus A321-200, in Cypriot airspace about 25 minutes after it took off from the Sinai coastal resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh. Russia's Embassy in Cairo confirmed the news, saying that all of those on board had perished. The jet was en route to the city of St. Petersburg.

In a statement, Airbus confirmed that the plane was involved in an incident, adding that "the concerns and sympathy of the Airbus employees go to all those affected by this tragic accident of Flight 7K-9268."

The plane maker said it would make "further factual information available as soon as the details have been confirmed and cleared by the authorities for release."

In the wake of the jet's disappearance, Islamic State, in a statement on Twitter, said it had brought down the aircraft. Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months. Much of the Sinai is a restricted military zone.

However, Russia's minister of transportation issued a statement rejecting that idea.

"This information cannot be considered credible," said Maxim Sokolov, Russian minister of transportation. "We are in close contact with our Egyptian colleagues, with the aviation authorities of this country. At the moment they have no information that would confirm such fabrications."

Russia's Tass news agency reported that the plane had requested an emergency landing at the nearest airport shortly before disappearing from radar screen, with the captain telling air traffic controllers in Cairo that the plane was suffering a radio malfunction.

According to the Egyptian Aviation Authority, the aircraft was flying at 31,000 feet when it dropped off radar. The wreckage of the plane, which carried registration number KGL-9268, was located by an Egyptian rescue team.

The area of the crash is a desolate mountainous region called Hassana. Some Islamic militants are active in Sinai but there was no indication the plane had been shot down, the security sources told Reuters.

The office of Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the prime minister had formed a cabinet-level crisis committee to deal with the crash and was flying to the crash site by private jet with other ministers. Prosecutors were also traveling to the site to conduct an investigation under the orders of the country's prosecutor general.

The Kremlin news agency said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the families of the victims, while RIA said that Russia's investigative committee would probe "violations of rules of flights and preparation for them" in connection with the crash.

Two of Europe's largest airlines, Lufthansa and Air France-KLM , said they would avoid flying over the Sinai peninsula while awaiting an explanation on the cause of the crash. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised Russia's President Vladimir Putin he would allow Russian experts to join the investigation.

The prime minister said a Russian team would arrive in Egypt later on Saturday night. The country is also preparing to receive the families of the victims.

--Reuters and The New York Times contributed to this article.