CAIRO (AA): A Russian passenger plane with more than 200 people aboard which crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, have recovered 129 bodies, according to the Egyptian Prime Minister’s office.
A Russian Airbus A-321 aircraft carrying a total of 224 people crashed in central Sinai, the office said in a statement.
The crash has led two major airlines to suspend flights over the Sinai Peninsula.
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 — operated by Russian air carrier Kogalymavia — had taken off at 03:51 GMT and had been due to arrive at 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.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said that 129 bodies have been recovered from the plane wreckage. “We are continuing efforts to find more victims of the ill-fated plane,” he said.
Regarding claims circulated on social media about Daesh involvement in the crash, Ismail said it was premature to speak about possible causes, adding that an examination of the plane’s black box will determine why the plane went down.
An Egyptian security source earlier ruled out the possibility that the incident had been caused by militant activity, attributing Saturday’s deadly crash to a technical malfunction.
Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov also said Saturday the claim “can’t be considered reliable”, according to the Interfax news agency.
Lufthansa and Air France-KLM announced Saturday they would suspend their flights over the Sinai Peninsula until the cause of the crash was revealed.
Prime Minister Ismail — who visited the Russian embassy to offer condolences — denied reports that the pilot had made a call for an emergency landing before the crash, saying that the plane had disappeared from the radar.
He went on to promise to lend all necessary assistance to Russia in the investigation of the plane crash.
The Russian embassy in Cairo said there was no information about possible survivors.
Saturday’s crash is expected to put more pressures on Egypt’s tourism industry, which has been hammered by four years of political unrest since a 2011 uprising unseated autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Nearly three million Russians visit Egypt every year.
In the period from January to July this year, nearly 1.6 million Russian tourists visited Egypt, according to Egypt’s official statistics agency CAPMAS.