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UK begins repatriation of tourists stranded in Egypt's Sinai

The UK is to begin repatriating British tourists who found themselves stranded in Egypt's Sinai when flights were canceled two days ago. But Easyjet said Egyptian authorities had suspended some of its flights.

British budget airline Easyjet said on Friday that Egyptian authorities had suspended some planned "rescue" flights to pick up passengers stranded in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The low-cost carrier said eight out of 10 scheduled flights out of the Sinai region wouldn't take off on Friday but Monarch and British Airways still planned to operate their flights.

The announcement has added to confusion for thousands of passengers who have remained in Egypt since Britain postponed flights to and from the airport following the crash of a Russian airliner on Sunday.

Watch video 02:07

Stranded at Sharm el-Sheikh airport

Earlier, UK authorities said the repatriation of

British tourists

would begin on Friday, with flights scheduled to depart to London in the afternoon.

The process was approved after British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday chaired emergency response meetings to gauge the security situation at Sharm el-Sheikh's international airport.

Cameron noted that additional security measures were put in place at the airport, effectively allowing British tourists to depart Egypt's Sinai region by Friday after

flights were suspended

on Wednesday.

"The additional security measures will include permitting passengers to carry hand baggage only and transporting hold luggage separately," said a spokeswoman for the prime minister's office.

"We are working with the airlines to ensure there are suitable arrangements in place to reunite passengers with their belongings as soon as possible," the spokesperson added.

Also on Friday, Dutch carrier KLM refused to let passengers take checked luggage on a flight from Cairo to Amsterdam.

Bomb claims contested

Western leaders on Thursday reiterated statements that Metrojet's Airbus A321-200 was likely downed by a bomb, which an

Egypt-based militant group affiliated with the "Islamic State" claimed.
Watch video 04:07

Did a bomb bring down the Russian plane?

The Russian airliner

mysteriously crashed on Saturday

around 23 minutes after departure from Sharm el-Sheikh's airport.

"There's a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we're taking that very seriously," said US President Barack Obama.

Cameron said that the plane was "more likely than not" brought down by a bomb.

A person with access to the plane's baggage compartment may have placed a bomb on the aircraft, reported British broadcaster BBC citing security service investigators.

Meanwhile, Russian and Egypt authorities called the claims "speculation," saying only statements made by the investigation team should be considered.

ls/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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