The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) terror group says it is responsible for downing a Russian passenger jet that crashed Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board.
The Airbus A321 plane was flying from the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, when it crashed only a few hundred miles away in the central Sinai area. Everyone on the plane was Russian except for a few Ukrainian passengers, Egypt’s airport authority said in a statement.
A branch of the terror organization, Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis), posted a statement on social media, declaring, “The fighters of the Islamic State were able to down a Russian plane over Sinai province that was carrying over 220 Russian crusaders. They were all killed, thanks be to God.”
— Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi (@raqqa_mcr) October 31, 2015
The deceased include seventeen children, two-hundred adult passengers, and seven crew members, reports concluded.
ISIS fighters do possess MANPADS, shoulder-launched missiles that have a maximum effective range of around 15,000 feet, according to experts. However, the plane started to experience issues at 31,000 feet, well out of the range of the jihadis’ portable launchers.
Both Egyptian and Russian officials have dismissed ISIS’s claims.
Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said that the terror group’s claim should not be taken seriously and “can’t be considered accurate.”
Egyptian Army spokesman Mohamed Samir told The Guardian, “They can put out whatever statements they want but there is no proof at this point that terrorists were responsible for this plane crash. The Army sees no authenticity to their claims or their video.”
According to FlightRadar24, the jet was plummeting at 6,000 feet per minute before it completely vanished from radar screens.
The pilot of the Metrojet Airlines Airbus A321-200 radioed air traffic control requesting an emergency landing before losing contact, according to the Egyptian Aviation Incidents Committee.
But a spokeswoman from Kogalymavia, the Russian organization that controls Metrojet, told The Independent that the plane was in “full working order” prior to the Saturday tragedy.
“Our aircraft was in full working order, our crew was experienced, our pilot had a great deal of flying experience,” the spokesperson said, citing the captain’s 12,000 flight hours. She said they do not know what caused the plane to crash.
Investigative teams have already recovered the black boxes that record flight data, and both Russian and Egyptian officials said they will cooperate to find out what caused the plane to go down.