Security concerns leave tourists stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh

The UK has cancelled all flights from Sharm el-Sheikh following concerns the Russian airliner KGL9268, that crashed in Sinai earlier this week, may have been brought down by a bomb, killing all 224 Russians onboard 23 minutes after take off.

Currently it is only UK flights affected, whether this points to specific threat to the UK or is purely precautionary is unclear. However, there are currently 20,000 British nationals in Sharm, 9,000 of which are tourists. Extra consular staff have been drafted in to support them.

David Cameron has said while the investigation into he crash is ongoing, it is not possible to be categorically sure why the plane crashed, but added, “…as more information has come to light, we have been concerned that the plane may well have been brought down as a result of an explosive device.”

US intelligence has also suggested the plane may have been brought down by an explosion on board the flight with military detecting a heat flash over Sinai at the time of the crash. There was no distress call from the plane and the extensive pattern of debris scattering points to some sort of mid air explosion on the plane, although what sort of explosion is not clear with engine or fuel tank explosion not being ruled out

A UK aviation team was sent to Egypt yesterday to assess the security of the airport and the screening process, which is thought to be the cause of the current concern. Following this, officials are working to put emergency additional screening in place with the hope stranded holiday makers could start flying home as soon as tomorrow.

IS initially claimed responsibility for the downing of the flight using a surface to air missile saying it was in retaliation for Russia’s action in Syria. However, these claims were discounted by experts saying IS did not have this capability. The current line of investigation is focussed specifically on an explosion on board the plane.

Whilst the UK has some of the tightest airport security in the world, security restrictions at other airports flying into the UK has been an on-going concern, though this is the first time flights from a specific airport have been stopped.

Egyptian foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, expressed disappointment at the suspending of flights saying it was premature, with the Egyptian President Sisi due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron later today for a previously scheduled visit.

Key Facts

  • 900,000 British tourists travel to Egypt each year for sun and diving holidays.
  • British Airways, Thomson, Easy Jet, Monarch and Thomas Cook all travel between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh.
  • The cancelling of flights has been met with dismay amongst the many Egyptians reliant on the tourism industry and will have a dire effect on the struggling Egyptian economy.
  • The downed plane was an Airbus A-32, renowned for their excellent safety record.
  • The US, who could be another likely terrorist target, have no regular flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh.
  • Currently it is thought IS operate in about 1% of Egypt based in the Sinai peninsular where flight KGL9268 crashed.