Egypt promotes Sharm airport chief after Russian plane crash

  • Reuters, Cairo
  • Updated: Nov 05, 2015 22:41 IST
People mourn at a makeshift memorial for victims of a Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt, outside Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg. Egypt has promoted the airport chief at Sharm al-Sheikh airport just days after the plane crash. (REUTERS Photo)

Egypt has promoted the airport chief at Sharm al-Sheikh days after a Russian plane that took off from the Red Sea resort crashed in a disaster that killed all aboard and was claimed by Islamist militants.

Britain said on Thursday there was a significant possibility that a group affiliated with Islamic State, which operates in the Sinai Peninsula where the plane went down, was behind a suspected bomb attack that killed 224 people.

The comments have focused attention on security at the airport in Sharm al-Sheikh, a resort popular with British, Russian and other European holidaymakers seeking winter sun.

Egypt’s civil aviation minister said on Thursday that his country adheres to international safety and security standards and there was no evidence a blast had brought down the plane.

“The investigation team does not have yet any evidence or data confirming this hypothesis,” Hossam Kamal said in a statement.

At Sharm al-Sheikh airport, security appeared to have been tightened on Thursday with security forces patrolling the terminals and not allowing drivers, tour agents or others to loiter whilst awaiting tourists arrivals, a witness said.

Britain said it was working with airlines and Egyptian authorities to put in place additional security and screening measures to allow Britons in Sharm al-Sheikh to get home, but there would be no flights returning from the resort on Thursday.

The Irish aviation authority, which is taking part in the official investigation, directed all Irish airlines on Wednesday not to fly to or from the Sinai Peninsula until further notice.

But flights were continuing to arrive in Sharm al-Sheikh airport on Thursday, with Kamal saying that 23 were set to land from Russia, eight from Ukraine, three from Italy and two from Saudi Arabia, in addition to 22 domestic arrivals.

Captain Abdul Wahhab Ali will take on additional duties as aide to the head of operations at Egypt’s national airport operator, the chairman of the operator, Adel Mahjoub, announced on Thursday.

“Abdul Wahhab Ali was chosen for this post because of his qualifications and capabilities,” Mahjoub said in a statement.

Airport sources said the promotion would come into effect on November 6 and was not linked to the crash.

Both Egyptian and Russian officials have said it was too early to draw any conclusions about the cause of the crash.

That caution has not eased anxiety among tourism companies that handle visitors to Egypt’s ancient sites or Red Sea resorts.

Shares in Thomas Cook opened down 2.1% as the United Kingdom cancelled flights to Egypt, which depends heavily on tourism to generate hard currency.

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