CAIRO - A terrorist group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Saturday, the group said in a statement circulated by supporters on Twitter.
Egyptian security sources earlier on Saturday said early investigations suggested the plane, carrying 224 passengers and crew, crashed due to a technical fault.
The claim of responsibility was also carried by the Aamaq website which acts as a semi official news agency for Islamic State.
"The fighters of the Islamic State were able to down a Russian plane over Sinai province that was carrying over 220 Russian crusaders. They were all killed, thanks be to God," the statement circulated on Twitter said.
The downed Airbus A321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the aviation ministry said.
Meanwhile, Russia's Minister of Transport Maxim Sokolov told the Interfax news agency that claims that the Russian airliner was shot down by terrorists "can't be considered accurate."
"Now in various media there is assorted information that the Russian passenger (plane)... was supposedly shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, fired by terrorists. This information can't be considered accurate," Interfax quoted him as saying.
A north Sinai security source said initial examination showed the crash was due to a technical fault, but gave no detail. The plane, he said, had landed in a "vertical fashion," explaining the scale of devastation and burning.
The Russian Embassy in Cairo said it had been told by Egyptian officials the pilot had been trying to make an emergency landing at El-Arish.
"I now see a tragic scene," an Egyptian security officer at the site told Reuters by telephone. "A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.
"The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside," the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
Egypt's prosecutor general has agreed to allow a Russian government agency to participate in investigating what caused the crash, state-owned newspaper Al-Ahram's website said.
The North Sinai prosecution office summoned air and ground traffic control officials for questioning over the incident, and ordered a technical team from the Civil Aviation Ministry to analyze the contents of the plane's black box, the newspaper added
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.
Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30. Security sources said there was no indication the Airbus had been shot down or blown up.
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