Russian jet broke up in midair but too early draw conclusions, official says

Official: Russian Plane Crash Caused by 'External Impact'


CAIRO/MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula broke up in mid-air, an official of a Moscow-based aviation agency said on Sunday after visiting the disaster site, but stressed it was too early to draw conclusions from this.

Russian authorities also ordered Kogalymavia airline, operator of the Airbus A321 which came down on Saturday killing all 224 people on board, not to fly its jets of the same model until the causes of the crash are known.

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The jet, which Kogalymavia flew under the brand name Metrojet, was carrying holidaymakers from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg when it crashed into a mountainous area of central Sinai shortly after losing radar contact near cruising altitude.

See the reaction as the news reaches Russia:

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Russia mourns victims of plane crash in Egypt
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Russian jet broke up in midair but too early draw conclusions, official says
A man looks at candles and flowers in Simferopol on November 1, 2015 in memory of the victims of a jetliner crash. Russia mourned its biggest ever air disaster after a passenger jet full of Russian tourists crashed in Egypt's Sinai, killing all 224 people on board. A Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt broke up 'in the air', an investigator said on November 1, as the bodies of many of the 224 people killed on board were flown home. AFP PHOTO / MAX VETROV (Photo credit should read MAX VETROV/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 1: People mourn the victims of Airbus A321 crash at the Palace Square on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31. According to Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
A woman reacts in central Saint Petersburg on November 1, 2015, as people gather to light candles in memory of the victims of a jetliner crash. Flags flew at half-mast in Russia on November 1 as the country mourned its worst air disaster after a jetliner full of Russian tourists crashed in Egypt, killing all 224 on board. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT-PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 1: Russian people lay flowers, toys and light candles to memory of Russian plane accident in Egypt on October 31, at Dvortsovaya square in Saint-Petersburg, Russia on November 1, 2015. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Women look at candles and flowers in Simferopol on November 1, 2015 in memory of the victims of a jetliner crash. Russia mourned its biggest ever air disaster after a passenger jet full of Russian tourists crashed in Egypt's Sinai, killing all 224 people on board. A Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt broke up 'in the air', an investigator said on November 1, as the bodies of many of the 224 people killed on board were flown home. AFP PHOTO / MAX VETROV (Photo credit should read MAX VETROV/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: A woman holds a candle at a memorial for the victims of Airbus A321 crash at the Pulkovo Airport on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: A woman cries near a 'memorial' to the victims of the Airbus A321 crash at the Pulkovo Airport on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: People mourn the victims of Airbus A321 crash at Pulkovo Airport on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: Candles, toys and flowers are seen at the 'memorial' of the victims of the Airbus A321 crash at the Pulkovo Airport on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 01: People mourn the victims of Airbus A321 crash at Pulkovo Airport on November 1, 2015 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg. (Photo by Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images)
Relatives react at Pulkovo international airport outside Saint Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure, officials said. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives react at Pulkovo international airport outside Saint Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure, officials said. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 31: Relatives of passengers of Russian Airbus-321 aircraft react at Pulkovo international airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Relatives react at Pulkovo international airport outside Saint Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure, officials said. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative reacts at Pulkovo international airport outside St Petersburg after an Airbus A321 of Russian airline Kogalymavia with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Egypt has recovered the black box of the Russian airliner that crashed on October 31 in the restive Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board, the prime minister's office said. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative reacts at Pulkovo international airport outside Saint Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure, officials said. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 31: A relative of passengers of Russian Airbus-321 aircraft reacts at Pulkovo international airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 31: Relatives of passengers of Russian Airbus-321 aircraft react at Pulkovo international airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Relatives wait for information at Pulkovo international airport outside Saint Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure, officials said. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 31: Relatives of passengers of Russian Airbus-321 aircraft react at Pulkovo international airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Relatives wait at the Pulkovo international airport outside St. Petersburg after a Russian plane with 224 people on board crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015. Ambulances reached the site and began evacuating 'casualties,' officials and state media reported, without elaborating on their condition. The plane took off early in the morning from the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for Saint Petersburg in Russia but communication was lost 23 minutes after departure. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 31: Relatives of passengers of Russian Airbus-321 aircraft react at Pulkovo international airport in Saint Petersburg, Russia on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Sergey Mihailicenko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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"The destruction happened in the air, and fragments were scattered over a large area of around 20 square kilometers," said Viktor Sorochenko, director of the Intergovernmental Aviation Committee. However, he warned against reading anything into this information. "It's too early to talk about conclusions," he said on Russian television from Cairo.

The Moscow-based committee represents governments of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups Russia and other former Soviet republics.

Egyptian analysts began examining the contents of the two "black box" recorders recovered from the airliner although the process, according to a civil aviation source, could take days. However, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov told Russia 24 television that this work had not yet started.

Russian airliner crashes

MONTHS OF INQUIRIES

A militant group affiliated to Islamic State in Egypt said in a statement that it brought down the plane "in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land", but Sokolov told Interfax news agency the claim "can't be considered accurate".

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said it could take months to establish the truth behind the crash though his country was cooperating with Russia to aid investigations.

"This is a complicated matter and requires advanced technologies and broad investigations that could take months," Sisi said in a televised speech on Sunday.

The wreckage was found in a desolate area of stony ground.

Rescuers had collected the colorful suitcases of the passengers into a pile. A pink child's sandal decorated with white flowers lay among the debris, a reminder that 17 children were among those killed as they headed home from their holidays.

Parts of the wreckage were blackened and charred, with one section forming heaps of twisted metal, although the blue Metrojet logo was still visible on its broken tail fin.

As the Russian investigators moved slowly across the site, Egyptian military helicopters buzzed overhead, combing the wider area for debris - or bodies - not yet found.

Watch more below:

Footage of Crash Site Emerges

MORGUE

At least 163 bodies had already been recovered and transported to various hospitals including Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, according to a cabinet statement.

Airport security sources said Russian experts who arrived on Saturday brought with them refrigerators and DNA samples to help identify and take home the dead.

Russian experts had already visited the morgue on Saturday night and Moscow's ambassador to Cairo said the first 130 bodies were due to leave on Sunday evening bound for St Petersburg.

A source inside the morgue said the bodies had been numbered using bracelets, ready to be received by the Russians, and empty ambulances were arriving to pick them up.

Those on board the doomed flight included 214 Russians, at least three Ukrainians and one Belarusian, most returning from the Red Sea, popular with Russians seeking winter sun.

The Russian flag was flying at half-mast over the country's embassy in Cairo on Sunday morning. President Vladimir Putin has declared a day of national mourning in Russia.

Russian airline crash

Russia's transport regulator said in a statement that it had grounded Kogalymavia's Airbus A321s until the reasons for the crash became clear.

Russian transport prosecutors have already examined the quality of the fuel used by the airliner and found that it met necessary requirements, Russia's state-run RIA news agency said.

The crew had also undergone medical tests recently and no problems were detected, Interfax reported.

Experts from Airbus have begun arriving in Egypt to assist in the investigation, the civil aviation ministry said.

See the aftermath in Egypt as bodies are removed from the crash site:

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Russian plane crash in Egypt wreckage and aftermath
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Russian jet broke up in midair but too early draw conclusions, official says
Debris belonging to the A321 Russian airliner are seen at the site of the crash in Wadi el-Zolmat, a mountainous area in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on November 1, 2015. International investigators began probing why a Russian airliner carrying 224 people crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, as rescue workers widened their search for missing victims. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SUEZ, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 01: A plane part is seen as the Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt on November 01, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on yesterday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane had been lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Alaa El Kassas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Debris of the A321 Russian airliner lie on the ground a day after the plane crashed in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, on November 1, 2015. International investigators began probing why the Russian airliner carrying 224 people crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, as rescue workers widened their search for missing victims. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Debris of the A321 Russian airliner lie on the ground a day after the plane crashed in Wadi al-Zolomat, a mountainous area in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, on November 1, 2015. International investigators began probing why the Russian airliner carrying 224 people crashed in the Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, as rescue workers widened their search for missing victims. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SUEZ, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 01: Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt on November 01, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on yesterday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane had been lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Alaa El Kassas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SUEZ, EGYPT - NOVEMBER 01: Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt on November 01, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on yesterday. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane had been lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Alaa El Kassas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's Morgue in Cairo, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Ibrahim Ramadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's Morgue in Cairo, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Ibrahim Ramadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's Morgue in Cairo, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Ibrahim Ramadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
CAIRO, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's Morgue in Cairo, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Ibrahim Ramadan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Egyptian ambulance arrives to Kabret military air base by the Suez Canal on October 31, 2015, after victims of a Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula were brought to the base before being transported to a morgue. Egypt's government said 15 bodies have been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far from the site of the crash. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian paramedics load the corpses of Russian victims of a Russian passenger plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula, into a military plane at Kabret military air base by the Suez Canal on October 31, 2015. Egypt's government said 15 bodies have been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far from the site of the crash. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SUEZ, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Egyptian officials receives the corpses of 34 passengers, found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Kabret Military Base in Suez, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Mostafa El Shemy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Egyptian ambulances line up at Kabret military air base by the Suez Canal on October 31, 2015, after victims of a Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula were brought to the base before being transported to a morgue. Egypt's government said 15 bodies have been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far from the site of the crash. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian ambulance waits at Kabret military air base by the Suez Canal on October 31, 2015, after victims of a Russian airliner that crashed in the Sinai Peninsula were brought to the base before being transported to a morgue. Egypt's government said 15 bodies have been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far from the site of the crash. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
SUEZ, EGYPT - OCTOBER 31: Egyptian officials receives the corpses of 34 passengers, found at crash site of Russian Airliner, at Kabret Military Base in Suez, Egypt on October 31, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister's office. According to Egypts Civil Aviation Authority, the plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St Petersburg. (Photo by Alaa El Kassas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Egyptian ambulances carrying the corpses of Russian victims of a Russian passenger plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula, off load the bodies into a military aircraft at Kabret military air base by the Suez Canal on October 31, 2015. Egypt's government said 15 bodies have been recovered and transferred to a morgue so far from the site of the crash. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian police officers stand guard outside the Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo on October 31, 2015, as they wait for the victims of the Russian charter plane. A Russian plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, officials said. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian police officers stand guard, next to graffiti condemning police brutality, outside the Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo on October 31, 2015, as they wait for the victims of the Russian charter plane. A Russian plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, officials said. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian police officers stand guard outside the Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo on October 31, 2015, as they wait for the victims of the Russian charter plane. A Russian plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, officials said. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian police officers stand guard outside the Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo on October 31, 2015, as they wait for the victims of the Russian charter plane. A Russian plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, officials said. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
Egyptian police officers stand guard outside the Zeinhom Morgue in Cairo on October 31, 2015, as they wait for the victims of the Russian charter plane. A Russian plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing everyone on board, officials said. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMED EL-SHAHED (Photo credit should read MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)
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Emergency services and aviation specialists resumed early on Sunday their search at the crash site which is spread over more than 15 square km, with 100 Russian emergency workers helping them recover bodies and gather evidence.

Russia Pays Tribute to Crash Victims

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30.

Islamic State, the ultra-hardline group that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, has called for a holy war against both Russia and the United States in response to airstrikes on its fighters in Syria.

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.

Militants in the area are not believed to have missiles capable of hitting a plane at 30,000 feet.

Islamic State websites have in the past claimed responsibility for actions that have not been conclusively attributed to them. Officials say there is no evidence to suggest so far that a bomb could have brought down the plane.

Three carriers based in the United Arab Emirates airlines - Emirates [EMIRA.UL], Air Arabia AIRA.DU and flydubai - said on Sunday they were re-routing flights to avoid flying over Sinai. Two of Europe's largest carriers, Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, have already said they would avoid flying over peninsula while awaiting an explanation of the cause.

Sherif Fathy, Chairman of EgyptAir, said the national carrier had taken no such action. "I heard some other companies may be doing this, but I don't think it's justified," he said.

The A321 is a medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1,100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.

Airbus said the A321 was built in 1997 and had been operated by Metrojet since 2012. It had flown 56,000 hours in nearly 21,000 flights.

The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. Cairo time (1151 EDT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) when it vanished from radar screens.

According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) per minute when the signal was lost to air traffic control.

Russian plane crash

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