(JNi.media) The Russian Airbus that crashed in the Sinai Saturday, killing all 224 people on board, broke apart “in the air,” according to a senior official of the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee. RIA-Novosti reported that committee chief Viktor Sorochenko believes “the disintegration happened in the air and the fragments are strewn over a large area.” However, Sorochenko cautioned it was “too early to draw conclusions.” Sorochenko is part of an international panel of experts from Russia, Egypt, France and Ireland investigating the crash.
According to The Telegraph, Egypt’s civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal reported there was been no evidence of problems during the flight: “Up until the crash happened, we were never informed of any faults in the plane, nor did we receive any SOS calls,” Kamal said. All contact with air traffic control was normal, and the routine, pre-flight checks showed no problems, he added.
Earlier, Ayman al-Muqadem, a member of the Egyptian Aviation Incidents Committee, said the pilot reported technical difficulties before losing contact with air traffic controllers, and asked to land at the nearest airport.
Experts have doubted ISIS’ boasting, accompanied by a video claiming to show that their affiliates in the Sinai shot the plane down, suggesting it was impossible for a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher to hit the plane at its cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. However, an advanced surface-to-air missile could do it. Should ISIS have been able to acquire such a system in Iraq or Syria and manage to transport it to the Sinai, under the watch of both the Egyptian and Israeli armies—then taking down an Airbus could have been carried out.
Le Parisien quoted former French intelligence agent Yves Trotignon, who pointed out that ISIS’ claim was vague on how the flight was actually destroyed. Normally, the ISIS videos showing the downing of enemy aircraft are accompanied by a live sound track, rife with astonished cries of “Allahu akbar” as the target is hit. The newest video is silent, accompanied by an Arabic song track. It also starts with a plane flying and getting hit, absent the usual “before” shots that lend the video context and authenticity.
“The [ISIS] statement does not say they shot it down, but that they destroyed it,” Trotignon said. “You could imagine explosives on board, or sabotage.”