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Russia Repatriates 11,000 Tourists From Egypt

Around 80,000 Russians are estimated to be in Egypt, mainly in the Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada resorts. (file photo)
Around 80,000 Russians are estimated to be in Egypt, mainly in the Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada resorts. (file photo)

Russia flew home some 11,000 Russian tourists from Egypt on November 7 and an even larger number is expected to leave on November 8.

Tourists are only allowed to take cabin baggage.

The rest of their luggage will be brought back by a cargo plane, reflecting an apparent concern about security and baggage-screening procedures at Sharm el-Sheikh airport near the Red Sea.

Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich said the first of three teams of Russian inspectors were sent to Egypt to look at the security conditions at airports there.

The move comes after all 224 people on board an Airbus A321-200 operated by Kogalymavia/Metrojet were killed when the plane broke up in midair and crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on October 31.

The chief Egyptian investigator says his team is considering all scenarios for the cause of the tragedy after reporting a noise in the last second of the cockpit voice recording.

But Ayman el-Muqadem said on November 7 that it was too soon to determine what caused the plane to break up in mid-flight as experts were still gathering information.

U.S. and British officials have cited intelligence reports as indicating that the plane was brought down by a bomb on board.

On November 8, Reuters quoted an Egyptian investigation team member, who told the news agency that investigators are "90 percent sure" the noise heard in the final second of the recording was an explosion caused by a bomb.

Muqadem said the crash occurred 23 minutes into the flight, when the autopilot was still engaged, and debris was scattered over a wide area extending for 13 kilometers "which is consistent with an in-flight break-up."

Shortly after the crash, an Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula said it brought the plane down, without offering proof.

A November 7 report by The New York Times cited unidentified American officials as saying that the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has agreed to assist the Russian government’s investigation into the deadly crash. A day earlier, CBS News reported that Russia had requested support from the law enforcement agency.

Some U.S. officials told The New York Times that Moscow is interested in forensic analysis, which the FBI could provide to establish what brought down the passenger plane. Other American officials said Russia’s request for assistance was more general in nature, according to the report.

Russia announced on November 6 that it was suspending flights to all of Egypt, joining the United Kingdom and Ireland, which had stopped flights to Sharm el-Sheikh. At least half a dozen Western European governments have told their citizens not to travel there.

Around 80,000 Russians are estimated to be in Egypt, mainly in the Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada resorts. Nearly 17,0000 Britons are also still stranded in Egypt.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told the BBC on November 8 that airport security in many cities will experience an overhaul if it is confirmed that the Russian plane crash in the Sinai was caused by a bomb onboard.

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, mourners filled St. Isaac’s Cathedral for a memorial service for the victims of the plane crash.

The bell of the world’s fourth-largest cathedral tolled one time for each of the 224 victims as a chamber choir sang.

Most of the victims were from St. Petersburg or other areas of northwest Russia.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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