UPDATE – Russian jet with 224 people aboard crashes in Egypt's Sinai


Plane lost contact with air-traffic controllers shortly after taking off from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh


CAIRO – A Russian passenger plane with more than 200 people aboard crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister’s office.

A Russian Airbus-321 aircraft carrying a total of 224 people crashed in central Sinai, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

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.

Russia’s aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya, said the passenger plane had taken off at 03:51 GMT and had been due to arrive at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport at 12:10 GMT.

Rosaviatsiya said the plane had failed to make scheduled contact with Cypriot air-traffic controllers before disappearing from radar.

No information is yet available regarding the nationalities of the passengers aboard, but it is believed that the plane — operated by Russian air carrier Kogalymavia — had been carrying mostly Russian tourists.

According to the Russian aviation authority, 17 children were aboard the ill-fated aircraft.

The Egyptian authorities, meanwhile, said a cabinet-level crisis committee had been established to follow up on the incident.

A source from Egypt’s Aviation Ministry said debris from the plane had been found near the city of Arish in northern Sinai.

A local security source has ruled out the possibility that the incident was caused by militant activity, attributing the deadly crash to a technical malfunction.

North Sinai has been the epicenter of a violent insurgency — which has mainly targeted Egyptian security personnel — since the ouster in mid-2013 of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi by the army.