The Islamic State group on Wednesday insisted it brought down a Russian plane that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, providing no new details but challenging sceptics to prove otherwise.
The jihadist group had claimed on Saturday that it downed the Airbus in Sinai, where its Egypt affiliate is based, but provided no details, prompting scepticism about its involvement.
All 224 people on board the flight bound for Saint Petersburg, mainly Russian tourists, were killed.
Experts say the probe into the crash will take time as they analyse recovered black boxes and wreckage that was strewn across a wide area.
In an audio statement posted on social media sites on Wednesday, IS said it would announce the details of the alleged attack when it chooses.
“We are under no obligation to explain how it came down,” IS said in the statement, posted a day after it released a video showing its fighters in Iraq celebrating the incident.
“Bring the wreckage and search it, bring your black boxes and analyse them, and tell us the results of your investigation,” a man said in the recording.
“Prove that we didn’t bring it down, and how it came down. We will detail how it came down at the time of our choosing.”
The group claimed that the plane was brought down on the 17th day of the month of Muharram in the Muslim lunar calendar, the first anniversary of the Egyptian affiliate’s pledge of allegiance to IS.
The IS affiliate in Egypt is conducting a bloody insurgency in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has left hundreds of policemen and soldiers dead.
Bombing of police hub
On Wednesday it also claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack on a police social club in the town of El-Arish. The official MENA news agency said four policemen were killed in the attack.
Sisi, who departed for London on Wednesday, has downplayed the IS claim of responsibility for the plane crash as “propaganda” but said a full investigation will take time.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said this week it was “unlikely” IS was involved, but he did not rule out the possibility.
The airline itself has ruled out technical fault or human error, drawing fire from the head of Russia’s aviation authority. Alexander Neradko said the airline’s conclusions were “premature and not based on any real facts”.
Experts say the fact that debris and bodies were strewn over a wide area points to a mid-air disintegration of the aircraft.
That leaves two possibilities -- a technical fault that caused the plane to disintegrate or an explosion caused by a bomb smuggled on board, according to experts.
US officials told CNN and other US television networks that a military satellite had detected a heat flash at the time of the crash, which could point to a catastrophic event during flight, possibly a bomb explosion.
Search operations had been extended to a radius of about 40 kilometres (25 miles).