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British plane 'almost hit by missile in Egypt in August'

A Thomson Airways flight, bound for the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, was forced to dodge a rocket in August, British newspapers have reported. The passengers were not informed.

The missile came within 300 meters (1,000 feet) of the aircraft, the "Daily Mail" and "Guardian" wrote on Saturday.

The Thomson Airlines pilot - a subsidiary of the German tour operator TUI - spotted the projectile as it came towards the aircraft missile but successfully managed to dodge it before safely landing with more than 180 people on board.

The British government also confirmed the incident on Saturday. A spokesman for the Department for Transport in said it was probably a routine exercise by the Egyptian military.

"We have investigated the reported incident at the time and had come to the conclusion that it was not a targeted attack," the spokesman said.

Russian plane downed

A Russian passenger jet crashed in the same region last Saturday during a flight from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board the flight - most of whom were Russian holidaymakers - were killed.

Western intelligence agencies suspect that a bomb had exploded on board. Britain has since suspended flights to Sharm el Sheikh and provided emergency flights on Friday

to return some 20,000 British tourists

who were stranded in the Red Sea resort.

After initially rebuking Western governments for alleging terrorist involvement before knowing the facts, Russian President

Vladmir Putin has now also suspended Russian flights to Egypt.

Islamic State 'clearly celebrating

An American TV station said on Friday that "Islamic State" (IS) terrorists had been recorded bragging about the recent crash.

Citing unnamed US officials, American broadcaster NBC said they were told that the "chatter" included details of how the plane went down.

"They were clearly celebrating," one official told NBC Nightly News.

Separately, CNN showed a video released by IS that purports to show leaders in Aleppo congratulating their cohorts in Sinai on the tragedy.

Sinai has been the scene of an Islamist insurgency in Egypt for nearly two years, leaving scores of people dead, including Egyptian soldiers and police officers.

ksb/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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