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A Russian plane crashed in Egypt. Here’s what we know and don’t know.

Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at the crash site of a Russian airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's morgue in Cairo, Egypt.
Ambulances bring the bodies of the victims found at the crash site of a Russian airliner, at Zinhoum Hospital's morgue in Cairo, Egypt.
(Anadolu Agency via Getty News Images)

A Russian plane carrying 224 passengers and crew members to St. Petersburg crashed shortly after taking off Saturday morning, reportedly killing everyone on board.

One terrorist group, ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the crash, but Russian sources have told news outlets those claims are not true. With this story still developing, here is what we know and don't know.

What we know

Flight KGL9268, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, crashed shortly after take-off. The plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Substantial parts of the peninsula, which is near the Egypt-Israel border, fell out of the Egyptian government's control after the 2011 revolution — and the ungoverned space has since served as a haven for jihadist groups. That includes a fairly significant ISIS presence: Time magazine reported this past summer that Egypt was "struggling to cope with its ISIS insurgency" there.

The flight lost radar contact 22 minutes after take off. Shortly afterward, the Egyptian government says its military planes "detected the wreckage of the ill-fated plane" in a nearby, mountainous area. One Egyptian official who claimed to have seen the crash happen gave a harrowing account to Reuters. "The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rockface," he said. "We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside."

The Egyptian government says it is "following up" on the incident. In a post on Facebook, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it has formed "a working group for the management of the crisis [that] includes the ministers of social solidarity, civil aviation, interior, local development, tourism and health." Russian has also reportedly agreed to cooperate in the investigation.

Two airlines have halted flights over Sinai. Lufthansa and Air France have said they will avoid the area for safety reasons. "We took the decision to avoid the area because the situation and the reasons for the crash were not clear," a Lufthansa spokeswoman told Reuters. "We will continue to avoid the area until it is clear what caused the crash."

What we don't know

There are conflicting reports about why the plane crashed. ISIS claimed responsibility for the crash on Saturday, Reuters reported. The news wire quoted a statement from the group, in which it claimed the strike to be "in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land," and said, "You who kill will be killed."

The Egyptian government, however, has pushed back against those claims. In a Facebook statement, the country's minister of civil aviation said it "was premature to decide the reasons of the crash and that the whole issue is now under investigation to clarify its reasons."

Security sources interviewed by Reuters said they "had no indication the Airbus had been shot down or blown up."

ISIS has never shot down a commercial airliner, and it's unclear whether the insurgency in Sinai has the weapon capabilities to do so. A video that ISIS published last month purported to show the use of anti-aircraft missiles, but according to an expert, it's not obvious they know how to wield them.

"It does not show the impact of the missile, suggesting the target was not hit, and more broadly that the group may not have undergone significant training focused on the use of anti-aircraft missiles," Michael Horowitz, a security analyst and member of the Levantine Group, told Daily News Egypt.

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