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Lufthansa pulls flights to Sinai Peninsula

Lufthansa has halted flights to and from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh following a Russian plane crash. Russia has insisted on waiting for official results, while German authorities review a video of the suspected bomb attack.

Germany's Lufthansa airline group announced on Thursday that it will suspend all flights to and from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh resort. The precautionary measure points to concerns that a bomb may have caused a Russian passenger plane to crash in the area over the weekend, killing all 224 people onboard.

Weekly flights made by Lufthansa's subsidiaries Eurowings and Edelweiss were halted "due to the current situation on the Sinai Peninsula," Lufthansa said. The airline assured that it would be working with the German Foreign Ministry and travel organizers to return any passengers stuck in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Currently, there are 50 Germans known to be in the area according to a statement made by the German Foreign Ministry to the Associated Press. Other airlines belonging to the Lufthansa Group have already been rerouted around the Sinai Peninsula, while flights to Cairo will not be interrupted under the new measures.

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According to German media, German security authorities are currently reviewing a video which shows a terrorist attack being carried out on the Russian plane. The video, which appeared over the weekend on YouTube, reportedly shows an explosion followed by a burning machine falling to the ground. The logo of the Egyptian branch of the "Islamic State" appears in a corner of the video.

Safety concern or 'speculation?'

The move comes just hours after the UK decided to halt planes coming in and out of the Sinai Peninsula. On Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron cited intelligence reports saying "more likely than not that it was a terrorist bomb" that caused the deadly crash.

He also called for heavier security measures at Egyptian airports. "There are a relatively simple and straightforward set of things that need to happen at Sharm el-Sheikh airport to give us greater certainty of safety," he added.

During a joint press conference in London, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi assured that he was "completely ready to cooperate with all of our friends" to secure the safety of foreign tourists in the area.

Russia and Egypt, however, have remained skeptical about the crash causes. In a phone call on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Cameron that it was important to wait for the findings of the official investigation before any crash causes could be discussed.

"The reasons for what happened can only be put forward by the investigation," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. "Any other proposed explanations seem like unverified information or some sort of speculation."

Similarly, Egypt's civil aviation minister Hossam Kamal said investigators "have as yet no evidence or data confirming the theory" of a terrorist attack.

In response to the flight cancelations to the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt's Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou criticized Britain's decision to suspend flights. "The decision is unjustified and carries a lot of question marks," he remarked to the state news agency MENA.

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

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