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Nov 5, 2015 8:24 PM

The Latest: US taking 'very seriously' bomb possibility

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) The latest on the crash of a Russian plane in Egypt that killed all 224 people onboard last Saturday. (All times local.)

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10:25 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. is taking "very seriously" the possibility that a bomb caused a Russian plane to crash in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Obama commented Thursday in an interview with a radio station based in Seattle, Washington.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest has said earlier in the day that the U.S. can't rule out the possibility of terrorism in the Metrojet crash that killed all 224 people onboard.

Earnest said the U.S. hadn't determined what caused the crash.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Thursday that he has grounded all British flights to and from the Sinai Peninsula because of "intelligence and information" that points to a bomb as the probable cause of Saturday's crash.

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8 p.m.

British officials have confirmed that flights bringing back British tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula will begin Friday.

Britain suspended all flights to and from the airport on Wednesday over fears that a terrorist bomb may have brought down a Russian passenger jet in Sinai over the weekend. The crash killed all 224 people on board.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said in a statement that additional security measures will be in place on the flights, including only allowing passengers to carry hand baggage. Checked luggage will be transported separately.

It said authorities are "working with the airlines to ensure there are suitable arrangements in place to reunite passengers with their belongings as soon as possible."

Downing St. said Thursday that outbound flights from Britain to Sharm el-Sheikh remain grounded, and Britain warns against all but essential air travel to or from that airport.

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6:45 p.m.

Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC says it has asked Italian airlines to conduct their own extra security checks at Sharm el-Sheikh's airport in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

The move came a day after Britain suspended all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh over suspicions that the Russian plane that crashed in Sinai over the weekend may have been brought down by a terrorist bomb.

ENAC said Thursday that the extra security checks will be done "as a precaution" while awaiting word on what caused the Oct. 31 crash. It noted that British airliner easyJet had cancelled flights from Italy to Sharm el-Sheikh.

The Red Sea resort has long been popular with Italian vacationers.

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6:15 p.m.

A senior U.S. State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry has discussed the crash of the Russian airliner with his Egyptian counterpart.

The official says Kerry told Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a telephone call Thursday that although media outlets have reported on suspected causes of the crash, the U.S. government has yet to make an official determination. Kerry also expressed condolences for the crash.

The Metrojet flight en route to St. Petersburg crashed over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Saturday after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. All 224 people onboard were killed.

Britain suspended flights to Sinai on Wednesday over suspicions that the crash was caused by a terrorist bombing.

The State Department official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the call by name.

Matthew Lee in Washington.

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4:35 p.m.

British airlines Monarch and easyJet say they will fly from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Friday to bring stranded British tourists back.

EasyJet says it will run nine flights from the Red Sea resort to London airports and one to Milan.

Monarch will run two scheduled flights and three additional flights.

Neither airline is operating outbound passenger flights from the U.K. to Sharm el-Sheikh.

The U.K. grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, saying there was a "significant possibility" a Russian airliner that crashed Saturday, killing 224 people, was downed by a bomb.

The government has said it could take a week to 10 days to fly out the 20,000 Britons currently in Sinai.

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4:10 p.m.

Egypt's tourism minister says Britain's decision to suspend all flights to Sinai's Sharm el-Sheikh is unjustified.

State-run news agency MENA reported Thursday that Hisham Zaazou is meeting with British officials in London to persuade them to cancel the decree.

Britain suspended flights to Sinai on Wednesday over suspicions that last weekend's Russian plane crash was caused by a terrorist bombing. The crash killed all 224 passengers and crew.

Egypt's vital tourism sector is reeling from years of political unrest following the 2011 toppling of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The only bright spot for the sector since then had been the resorts dotting the Red Sea coast.

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3:40 p.m.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says British experts looked at security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport 10 months ago and were "happy" with what they found.

El-Sissi says British teams conducted the checks at London's request. But he says Egypt is "completely ready to cooperate with all of our friends" on ensuring the safety of foreign tourists.

The U.K. grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, saying information suggested a Russian airliner that crashed Saturday may have been downed by a bomb.

Britain's action was condemned as premature by Egyptian officials, and overshadowed el-Sissi's official visit to London.

Speaking after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in 10 Downing St., el-Sissi said the two countries were "working intensively together in a spirit of close co-operation ... to address this and get back to normal as soon as possible."

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3:10 p.m.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has told British Prime Minister David Cameron to wait for the results of an official probe into the Russian plane crash in Egypt, after the British leader said it was "more likely than not" that the crash was caused by a bomb.

The two leaders spoke Thursday, a day after Britain grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, where the plane crashed, killing all 224 people on board.

The Kremlin said that Putin "underlined that while assessing the reason for what happened, it's necessary to use data that will become available in the course of the ongoing official probe."

It said the two leaders also discussed issues related to the joint fight against terrorism.

Cameron's office hasn't commented yet on the conversation.

2:00 p.m.

Germany's Lufthansa Group says it's suspending all flights to and from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh "due to the current situation on the Sinai Peninsula."

The airline said Thursday that two weekly flights of subsidiaries Edelweiss and Eurowings would be affected. It says it will work with the German Foreign Ministry and trip organizers to make sure that any passengers already in Sharm el-Sheikh are safely returned home.

The Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press there are currently 50 Germans known to be in the resort area.

Other Lufthansa Group airlines have already changed routes so as to fly around Sinai.

Lufthansa says flights to Cairo will not be affected by any of the new measures.

3:15 p.m.

British Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin says Egypt will have to put in place tighter long-term airport security measures before British flights resume to the Sinai Peninsula.

McLoughlin told the House of Commons Thursday that British security teams had been sent to Sharm el-Sheikh and "will be working intensively with the Egyptian authorities to allow normal scheduled operations to recommence."

The U.K. grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, saying there was a "significant possibility" a Russian airliner that crashed Saturday was downed by a bomb.

McLoughlin said short-term measures, including different luggage-handing arrangements, would allow the estimated 20,000 British nationals in the Sharm el-Sheikh area to fly home.

In the longer term, he said Britain would "need to be confident" there was strong security in place before scheduled flights could resume.

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2:20 p.m.

British Prime Minister David Cameron also says that the British "don't know for certain that it was a terrorist bomb" that caused the Russian plane crash in Egypt last weekend.

Cameron spoke Thursday, shortly before a meeting with Egypt's president.

He says "there's still an investigation taking place in Egypt. We need to see the results of that investigation."

He says the British decision to suspend flights was based on "intelligence and information we had that gave us the concern that it was more likely than not a terrorist bomb."

He says that Britain wants "to start as soon as possible" to bring tourists home, and empty planes will be flying out from Britain to bring people back. But Cameron cautioned that it would take "some time" to bring everyone back.

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2 p.m

British Prime Minister David Cameron says the crash of a Russian jet in Egypt was "more likely than not" caused by a bomb.

The U.K. grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, stranding thousands of British tourists.

Cameron says he has "every sympathy" with the Egyptians, who rely so on heavily on tourism, but that he had to "put the safety of British people first." Cameron spoke in 10 Downing Street on Thursday.

He says British officials are not yet certain the plane was bombed, but it's a "strong possibility."

He says he would call Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day to discuss the crash.

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1:55 p.m.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abouzeid says Britain's decision to suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh was taken unilaterally without consulting Cairo.

In a statement, Abouzeid says Egypt and the U.K. had high-level communication just hours before Britain's decision.

He added that Egypt has reacted positively to British concerns and has bolstered airport security. He also says that this does not mean that Egypt views airport security as the cause of the plane crash.

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1:35 p.m.

Russia's top aviation official says investigators examining potential causes of the plane crash over Egypt will look for traces of explosives on the wreckage.

Alexander Neradko also called for caution in publicizing speculation about the likely causes of the crash, saying investigators are considering all theories including a terrorist attack.

Russia's Airbus A321-200 en route to St. Petersburg crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing all 224 people onboard.

Both Russia and Egypt on Thursday dismissed suggestions by Britain and the United States that a bomb was likely to have brought down the Metrojet flight, packed with Russian vacationers coming home from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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1:25 p.m.

Some British tourists in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh say they understand their government's move to suspend flights from the resort but are worried about the future of Egyptian tourism.

Sarah Cotterill, who was to fly to Gatwick on easyJet Wednesday, says she was about to "board the plane" home when the suspension was announced.

She told BBC that "after spending about three hours at the airport we've been bussed back to our hotel, and that's where we are at the moment."

Paul Modley, a 49-year-old Londoner who has travelled to Sharm el-Sheikh seven times in the last nine years, says he worries for Egypt's tourism.

Modley, due to fly home on Saturday, says he is "really worried for the Egyptian people because particularly in the Red Sea resorts they are so dependent on tourism."

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12:50 p.m.

Egypt's Minister of Civil Aviation Hossam Kamal says Egyptian airports comply with international standards and apply airport security measures.

His remarks on Thursday come as multiple major carriers have cancelled flights to the Red Sea beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh following last weekend's Russian plane crash.

Russia's Airbus 321-200 was en route from the resort to St. Petersburg when it crashed 23 minutes after the takeoff.

Kamal says the Sharm el-Sheikh airport is expecting 23 flights from Russia on Thursday, as well as eight from Ukraine and three from Italy. Flights are also expected from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

He says that in light of U.S. and British allegations that the Russian flight may have been downed by a bomb, "the investigation team does not have yet any evidence or data confirming this hypothesis."

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12:10 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says he expects British tourists to be flown back from Sharm el-Sheikh starting Friday, after measures are taken to tighten security at the resort's airport.

The U.K. grounded all flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula Wednesday, saying information suggested a Russian airliner that crashed Saturday, killing 224 people, may have been downed by a bomb.

Britain has sent a team of security and defense experts to the resort, where thousands of British tourists are stranded.

Hammond said "the airline industry is indicating that they expect by tomorrow to be in a position to start bringing people out."

Egyptian officials have condemned Britain's travel ban as an overreaction. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is in London and is due at 10 Downing St. Thursday for what is likely to be a tense meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.

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12:05 p.m.

Egypt's Antiquities Minister Mamdouh Eldamaty dismissed allegations by the United States and Britain that the Airbus A321 may have been brought down by a bomb.

The minister says the crash on Saturday in Sinai was "not a terror act. It was an accident." He stressed that it's "very sad what happened, but we have to wait for the result of the investigation."

Eldamaty spoke at the ancient city of Luxor as authorities opened three tombs to the public for the first time in an effort to encourage tourism.

Egypt's presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef also has said that authorities here wish U.S. and Britain had "waited for the result of the ongoing investigation."

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12:40 p.m.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected Britain's suggestion that a bomb is likely to have caused last weekend's Russian plane crash over Egypt.

All 224 people onboard the Airbus A321 en route home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh died in Saturday's plane crash.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Moscow "cannot rule out a single theory" about the crash but insisted that singling one out is merely speculation.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Wednesday said there was a "significant possibility" the crash was caused by a bomb, and Britain suspended all flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh indefinitely.

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11:30 a.m.

The Russian Federal Transport Agency says airliner Metrojet has suspended all flights of Airbus A321 jets in its fleet after last weekend's crash of its plane in Sinai.

The agency said in a statement Thursday that Metrojet has filed documents showing the suspension, pending checks by the authorities. Metrojet has four A321 aircraft.

The company has ruled out a pilot error or a technical fault as a possible cause of the crash while Russian authorities have refrained from remarks, citing ongoing investigations.

However, British and U.S. officials said Wednesday they have information suggesting the plane may have been brought down by a bomb.

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9:35 a.m.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov says Russian rescue teams are wrapping up their search for any more remains of victims of last Saturday's plane crash in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Puchkov said after a televised conference call with Russian experts in Egypt on Thursday that the 40 square kilometer (15 square mile) -area should be combed by 10 p.m. Moscow time.

Russia's Airbus 321-200 was en route from Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg when it crashed 23 minutes after takeoff. Most of the victims were Russian vacationers flying home.

So far, 140 bodies have been retrieved from the crash site.

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