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Egypt says 'noise' heard on Russia jet black box

Egypt has said foreign intelligence agencies claiming a bomb took down a Russian airliner have not provided any details. Investigators have still not determined what caused the crash.

The committee running the investigation into what caused a Russian airliner to crash said on Saturday a loud noise could be heard on the plane's black box seconds before recording stopped.

But the committee head, Ayman al-Muqaddam, said investigators were still trying to determine what caused the crash of the Russian airliner last weekend 23 minutes after takeoff from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 onboard.

"Initial observations... do not allow for identifying the origin of the in-flight break-up" al-Muqaddam said at a press conference. "A noise was heard in the last second of the recording by the cockpit voice recorder," and "a spectral analysis will be done to determine the origin of this noise," he said.

US, UK not providing intelligence

The US and UK have suggested a bomb likely caused the plane to break up, but Russia and Egypt have both said they would wait for a full investigation before jumping to conclusions.

Al-Muqaddam said foreign intelligence agencies have not provided the committee any information related to a potential terrorist act.

"The committee urges the sources of such reports to provide it with all information that could help us in undertaking our mission," he said.

US and UK intelligence agencies have said they heard "chatter" suggesting the Sinai affiliate of the "Islamic State" planted a bomb. The "chatter" includes what appears to be IS celebrating after the downing of the aircraft. The Sinai affiliate of IS claimed responsibility shortly after the plane went down.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri on Saturday criticized the US and UK for claiming through the media that a bomb blew up a Russian airliner without providing his country intelligence.

"We are the party that is the most closely connected to the issue," Shoukri said at a press conference. "We expected that the technical information available would be provided to us instead of being broadcast in the media in this general way."

"We have not excluded any possibility, but we have not reached any hypothesis before investigations are completed," Shoukri said.

Egypt to examine airport videos

But in the clearest sign yet that Egypt may be considering an act of terrorism, investigators said Saturday they were looking through videos at the airport to see if there was any suspicious activity.

"We want to determine if, for instance, anyone sneaked past security officials or the metal detectors. We are also trying to determine if there was any unusual activity among policemen or airport staff," an Egyptian official told Reuters.

Tourist stranded

Tens of thousands of foreign tourists are stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh after several European countries suspended flights to and from the resort. On Friday, Russia suspended all flights to Egypt and on Saturday said it would send 44 special flights to bring back tourists. Up to 80,000 Russian tourists are at Sharm el-Sheikh and another Red Sea resort.

Britain and other countries have also struggled to bring back tourists.

Planes flying out of the resort are limiting what passengers can carry on board amid concern a bomb in luggage could have slipped onto the Russian plane.

The crash is another blow to Egypt's tourism industry, which was hit by the Arab Spring protests and subsequent political turmoil. Tourism accounts for about 12 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

cw/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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