Thursday, November 5, 2015

'Sharm el-Sheikh flights suspended: Live updates as Russian plane 'bomb' fears halt services

The Mirror’s chief reporter Andy Lines has arrived on the scene at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
He has been speaking to tourists and getting a first hand picture of the situation.
Stay with us here for all the latest from him.

Suspected bomb 'could be an inside job'

The explosive device suspected to have brought down a Russian plane in Egypt could have been planted by airport staff.
Barcroft Media
Devestation: The plane could have been brought down by a bomb
Chris Yates, an aviation safety expert, told Sky News: “It could be an inside job, we just don’t know.
“That’s a point for the airport authority itself.
“They will have to go through their personnel list with a fine tooth comb to find anyone with terrorist sympathies including to ISIS”

More from from the foreign secretary

PA
Safety: Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has gone into detail about the extraction of trapped British tourists.
He says they could start being flown home tomorrow, with each plane checked by British officials.
Read more in Dan Bloom’s piece here.

Flight ban 'motivated by Russia's actions in Syria’

Getty Images
Motivation: A Russian lawmaker says Britain's decision could be political
A senior Russian lawmaker said Britain’s decision to stop flights from Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh resort was motivated by opposition to Russia’s actions in Syria, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
“There is geopolitical opposition to the actions of Russia in Syria,” said Konstantin Kosachev when asked about the decision.
Mr Kosachev is a senior member of Russia’s upper house of parliament.

Disruption 'could last until Christmas'

AFP
Disruption: Services to Sharm al-Sheikh Airport may not be back to normal until Christmas
Flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh airport may be disrupted until Christmas.
Services are currently suspended indefinitely and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Sky News the measures could last “days, weeks or months”.
He said he hoped things would be back to normal by the Christmas and New Year rush.

'People could be flown home tomorrow'

Carl Court/Getty Images
Home: Trapped tourists could be flown home tomorrow
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said holidaymakers will probably start being flown home tomorrow.
He told Sky News: “We have emergency short term measures that will allow us to bring people back and expect them to be in operation by tomorrow.”
“The measures will remain in place as we bring people out over the next week or 10 days.”

'Significant possibility plane was brought down by explosive'

There is a “significant possibility” the Russian plane was brought down by an explosive device, said Philip Hammond.
The foreign secretary said the Government “couldn’t wait” for the results of the inquiry into the crash before acting.
Barcroft Media
Significant: The plane may have been brought down by an explosive device
He said: “We have to act when there is a credible threat.”

RAF aircraft won't be used to rescue tourists

RAF planes will not be used to extract stranded Brits from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, says Philip Hammond.
It had been thought military planes were on standby to rescue tourists.
Getty
Safe: Philip Hammond said RAF planes will not be used
Mr Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth, also said no UK-bound aircraft will leave the airport until the Government is absolutely sure it is safe.

Airport security staff 'were playing Candy Crush'

The boss of Sharm el-Sheikh airport has been replaced amid fury from stranded passengers that security workers have been seen playing computer games on their mobile phones.
One tourist saw the person manning the scanning machine playing “Candy Crush on his phone”.
YouTube
Security: Airport staff were seen playing Candy Crush

Second Cobra meeting to be held today

The Prime Minster will chair another meeting of Cobra later this morning, Downing Street said.

British and Russian airlines 'assessed Sharm el-Sheikh airport security and left without making single remark'

A top aviation source said teams from Russian and British airlines assessed Sharm el-Sheikh airport security procedures yesterday and “left without making a single remark about it”.
Egypt’s presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef added: “We were wishing they would wait for the result of the ongoing investigation.”
Hany Ramsay, deputy head of Sharm el-Sheikh airport, said Britain’s conclusion that the plane may have been brought down by a bomb came “too soon” and may be aimed at damaging the country’s vital tourism sector.
“Other countries might soon follow them. They want to hurt tourism and cause confusion,” Mr Ramsey said.
He suggested that ulterior political and commercial motives may be behind the British statement.

Sharm el-Sheikh airport chief replaced

The head of Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport has been replaced amid growing international concern that the Russian plane which crashed soon after leaving the Red Sea resort the airport was downed by a bomb.
But Adel Mahgoub, chairman of the state company that runs Egypt’s civilian airports, said Abdel-Wahab Ali had been “promoted” to become his assistant and the move late last night had nothing to do with media scepticism surrounding the airport’s security.
Mr Mahgoub said Mr Ali was being replaced by Emad el-Balasi, a pilot.

Russian air crash: Timeline of tragedy

October 31: A plane operated by Moscow-based Metrojet airline crashes in a remote mountainous area 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.
The flight to St Petersburg goes down in an area of northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces have for years fought local Islamic militants who in recent months claimed allegiance to the extremist Islamic State (IS) group. Almost everyone on board was Russian. There were 25 children and seven crew members.
Barcroft
November 1: Prime Minister David Cameron tells Russian president Vladimir Putin that Britain shares the pain and grief of the Russian people over the crash.
A local affiliate of IS says it “brought down” the plane, but Russia’s transport minister dismisses the claim.
An Egyptian ground service official who carried out a pre-flight inspection of the Airbus A321-200 says it appeared to be in good condition. However a Russian TV channel quotes the wife of the co-pilot as saying her husband had complained about it.
Russia’s top aviation official, Alexander Neradko, head of the federal aviation agency, says the plane broke up at high altitude, going by the large area over which fragments were scattered.
Budget airline easyJet says it will “actively review” the safety of flights to Egypt following the crash, but continue flying as planned for now.
Reuters
November 2: Mr Cameron says British experts are meeting to decide whether the crash should force any change in UK security plans and travel advice. He says people should not stop flying to Sharm el-Sheikh despite claims by Metrojet that its aircraft was brought down by an “external impact”.
Emergency workers and aviation experts continue to comb debris spread over a wide area for clues and the “black box” flight recorders are said to have been recovered in good condition.
REUTERS/Peter Kovalev
November 4: Downing Street announces that flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK are being suspended for the night as a precaution allowing time for a specialist British team to assess security arrangements in the Egyptian resort. A spokeswoman says there is concern that the plane may have been brought down by an explosive device.
Mr Cameron chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on the issue, following which the Foreign Office advised against “all but essential” travel to the area.
Airlines, including easyJet, British Airways and Thomson Airlines, responded by grounding flights both into and out of Sharm el-Sheikh, leaving thousands of British holidaymakers stranded in the Red Sea resort.

Brits' fears over 'shoddy security'

Brits who have returned recently from Sharm el-Sheikh have criticised security at the airport as fears grow that the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt was brought down by a bomb.
BBC weather forecaster Paul Hudson, climate correspondent for Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, tweeted: “I returned from Sharm El Sheikh airport Friday morning just b4 plane crash. Security seemed shoddy to me and officials overstretched.”
Martin Parker, from Lincolnshire, replied to him: “Matches my experience. We even had to carry our hold luggage to the plane because of handling problems! Security seemed weak”
Sarah Poolman, from Sheffield, posted: “We supposed to fly 3rd December don’t want to go x”

Affected? Here's what you need to know

Flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK have been suspended amid growing fears a Russian plane was brought down by a bomb.
Downing Street made the announcement tonight, in a move that could affect the estimated 20,000 British people in the popular Egyptian resort at the moment.
It comes as investigations continue into the tragic incident on Saturday, when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt killing all 224 people on board.

RAF 'on standby to rescue stranded Brits'

The RAF is reportedly on standby to rescue some 20,000 Brits believed to be trapped in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Two C17 aircraft thought to be on notice to deploy to the Middle East, the Sun and Mail reported.
PA
Huge: A C-17 Globemaster at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire
They would be used to shuttle holiday makers to Cyprus where civilian carriers will be waiting, but according to the Sun, the airlift may not take place until the weekend.
The aircraft are normally used to airlift troops or military equipment and are based at RAF Brize Norton.

'Halting Sharm flights is extraordinary - the Government does not press the panic button lightly'

In 30 years of writing about travel I’ve never known anything like this.
In UK terms it’s frankly extraordinary, unprecedented and of course very worrying for the frightened Brits stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh and for those about to fly there on holiday.
Generally British tourists tend to be fairly robust in the face of terror threats.
But would you want to be on the first plane out of Sharm today, tomorrow or whenever the ban is lifted?
The British Government tends to be fairly circumspect about its travel advice and simply does not push the panic button lightly.

All Monarch flights grounded

Birmingham Mail
Going nowhere: Monarch grounded all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh
Monarch has grounded all flights today and said it was working with the FO to arrange to fly its customers back to the UK.
Those who were set to travel to the region today should not go to the airport and instead contact the firm’s customer services on 0333 003 0700 or 0333 777 4744 for package holiday customers.

Travel agent association: 'At least 9,000 Brits stranded'

Travel agent association Abta has estimated there are at least 9,000 Britons on holiday at the resort and advised passengers who were stranded or were booked to go in the next few days to contact their tour operator.
An Abta spokesman said: “The FO has not raised the threat level in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The change in advice applies only to air travel to and from Sharm el-Sheikh.
“Abta estimates there are around 9,000 customers currently on holiday with its members in Sharm el-Sheikh, but there will also be a number of holidaymakers who have travelled independently.
“Most insurance policies will still provide cover for holidaymakers in a country at the time of FO advice change.
“Those with holidays booked within the next 48 hours to Sharm el-Sheikh are advised to contact their travel company to discuss their options. If you have booked a package you will be entitled to a refund or alternative holiday.
“If you are not travelling within the next 48 hours you will need to check with your travel company as to what your options are and follow their advice.
“Those people with bookings beyond this are advised to wait until closer to the departure date to contact their travel company as the situation is reviewed.”

Newlyweds face anxious wait to see if Egypt honeymoon can go ahead

PA
Unhappy couple: Stephen and Maria Wilson are due to fly to the country next week but still don't know if they can go
A newlywed couple are facing an anxious wait to see if their honeymoon in Egypt can go ahead.
Stephen and Maria Wilson, from Howden in East Yorkshire, are due to fly out for an 11-night stay in Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday next week.
But Government concerns over the safety of flights in and out of the resort’s airport could result in holiday disruption for thousands.
Mr Wilson, an arable farmer, said: “We only booked our honeymoon two weeks ago, and now we’re waiting to see if we can go or not.”

Mirror reader's frustration over holiday in limbo

Mirror reader Erika Morris is due to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday.
She told us: “This is whats annoying, the region is safe but the airport isnt! How else you meant to get there?
“I’m due to fly Saturday. My dad passed away three weeks ago, this was my relax week.
“If I could get there I’d go. I actually feel safer in Sharm than on the streets of London!”

Angry Egypt says Britain's move to suspend flights has 'implications for tourist industry'

Britain’s move to suspend flights has drawn criticism from Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
He told CNN he was “somewhat surprised” by the British statement.
“This is a matter for the investigation to clarify and we should not prejudge or take any measures that might have implications,” Shoukry said.
“Implication also that the fact that a very large number of Egyptians who rely heavily on the tourist industry.”

Tomorrow's Daily Mirror front page

The situation in Egypt dominates the front page of tomorrow’s Daily Mirror.
UK flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh have been suspended “for the foreseeable future” by the government tonight.
The Foreign Office is now advising against ‘all but essential travel’ to the popular tourist hotspot, due to ‘significant’ concerns that the Russian plane tragedy was caused by a terrorist bomb.
There are an estimated 20,000 Brits in Sharm at the moment, but special return flights will be provided for them if they wish to come home early.
The shock move comes after David Cameron held a meeting of the emergency security group COBRA tonight to discussion the Egyptian security risk following Saturday’s tragedy.

British Airways flights delayed for 24 hours

British Airways said flights to and from the resort would probably be delayed by 24 hours.
A spokesman said: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority. We would never operate a flight unless it was safe to do so.”
Customers are advised to contact the airline at BritishAirways.com.

Thompson Airways cancels all outbound flights to Sharm el-Sheikh

Thomson Airways has cancelled all outbound flights to Sharm el-Sheikh up to and including 12 November.
In a statement, the tour operator said: “Following the change in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice advising against all but essential air travel to Sharm el Sheikh, Thomson Airways can confirm it has cancelled all outbound flights to Sharm el Sheikh up to and including Thursday 12th November.
“All customers booked to travel to Sharm el Sheikh in this period will be provided with a full refund. As a priority, we are contacting customers due to travel tomorrow and ask those travelling later in the week to please bear with us as we manage this evolving situation.
“Our experienced overseas resort team will be updating all our customers currently on holiday in Sharm el Sheikh of the change in FCO travel advice and we will be making arrangements to return these customers to the UK.
“A dedicated support line has also been set up for customers on 0800 009 3833.”

Downing Street took action after 'new information recently came to light'

Downing Street said the information about the crash that prompted the move included “some that has recently come to light”.
The initial assessment of the security arrangements at Sharm el-Sheikh airport from the team of UK experts was that “the Egyptian authorities had stepped up their efforts but that more remains to be done”, a spokeswoman said.
“It is in our mutual interests to work together to do all we can to get back to normal service.”
It would take at least until Friday to get in place sufficiently secure arrangements to begin bringing tourists home - with stranded passengers being taken to hotels, she cautioned.

Hammond: 'We recognise Egypt's concern - but they don't know what we know'

Phillip Hammond said he had spoken to his angry counterpart in Cairo, Sameh Shoukry.
“I recognise his concern. Of course this will have a huge negative impact for Egypt. But with respect to him, he hasn’t seen all the information that we have,” he said.
PA
Hammond visits Edinburgh
“And while we regard the Egyptians as very important partners - and we want to work with them not just on airport security but on all aspects of the development of their economy and the building of Anglo-Egyptian relations - when we see something which we believe represents a threat to British nationals we have to act on it and the other consequences have to be dealt with.”

Security 'let people through with two litre water bottles'

Sylvia Tidy-Harris, the owner of the speakersagency.com, which supplies celebrity speakers for high profile events, tweeted: “How Sharm El Sheikh hoteliers and shopkeepers must feel right now - if only the authorities had improved their security to protect everyone”.
Ms Tidy-Harris, 54, from Ibstock, Leicestershire, told the Press Association: “The British airlines should have been sending people down to check what the airport is like. I used to be a stewardess with Monarch and I am very conscious of security. My husband and I went to Taba then Hurghada, at both of which the security was poor.
“After Hurghada, I contacted various authorities, but nobody was interested. Sharm is the worst of those.
“We were there last November and would have liked to go back this year but security is lax at the airport and at some of the hotels.
“Taxi drivers said airport security staff were very badly paid. They were either asleep, or on mobile phones.
“They would have their rifles just leaning against the side.
“At Sharm we just put our two-litre bottles of water on the conveyor, and nobody took them off us.
“I’ve been to many different places - say Morocco, Kenya - and didn’t feel security there was too bad. I didn’t feel so unhappy with the security as in Egypt.”

More Brits not happy with security at airport

Britons who have returned recently from Sharm el-Sheikh have criticised security at the airport as fears grow that the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt was brought down by a bomb.
BBC weather forecaster Paul Hudson, climate correspondent for Look North in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, tweeted: “I returned from Sharm El Sheikh airport Friday morning just b4 plane crash. Security seemed shoddy to me and officials overstretched.”
Martin Parker, from Lincolnshire, replied to him: “Matches my experience. We even had to carry our hold luggage to the plane because of handling problems! “Security seemed weak”.
Sarah Poolman, from Sheffield, posted: “We supposed to fly 3rd December don’t want to go x”

Hammond on threat level

Stranded passengers would be returned to the UK, Mr Hammond said, but reassured others out there that the popular Red Sea resort itself was still considered safe.
“We are working with the airlines and the Egyptian authorities to put in place emergency procedures for additional screening and additional security to ensure that they can get home safely either on their original scheduled return dates or if they wish to leave earlier - though I should emphasise that we are not changing out threat level with regard to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort itself.”
Mr Hammond apologised for the “immense disruption and inconvenience” caused - including to people who had been forced to return to hotels from the airport.

Mirror reader in Sharm 'left in the dark'

A Mirror reader has contacted us from Sharm to say they’re being ‘kept in the dark.
Zoe Dalton said: “We are currently holidaying in Sharm el-Sheikh and due to fly home tomorrow.
“Our tour operators are denying the flights have been cancelled and so far we’ve been told to go to the airport as usual.
“We are of course apprehensive about this but we are clearly left in the dark. Myself my partner and my two teenagers!”

Updated easyJet statement

An easyJet spokesman said: “Following the decision by the UK Government to change travel advice on flights to and from Sharm El Sheikh Airport to all but essential air travel, easyJet will cancel its flights to and from Sharm El Sheikh tomorrow. It will keep its flights to and from Sharm El Sheikh under review, pending further advice from the Government. Passengers booked to travel to Sharm El Sheikh in the next two weeks are able to request a refund, or change their flights to an alternative date or destination free of charge. 
“We are doing all possible to keep all affected passengers informed and have provided hotel rooms for those delayed overnight this evening. We are working with the UK Government to work out the basis upon which easyJet can fly passengers in Sharm El Sheikh back home.
“The safety and security of its passengers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority. ‎
“The flights which were scheduled to operate tomorrow into Sharm El Sheikh were as follows – four from London (two from Gatwick, one from Stansted and one from Luton), one from Manchester and one from Milan Malpensa.
“We would advise any passengers due to travel from Egypt with easyJet in the coming days to check on Flight Tracker for the most up to date information on easyJet.com.”
PA

Video of Mr Hammond's statement

Here is a video of Mr Hammond’s statement tonight.
Mr Hammond said the decision to close down flights to the airport had been taken “very reluctantly” and praised Egyptian authorities for “moving heaven and earth to meet our demands on the ground”.
Click below to watch.

Full statement from Phillip Hammond

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “This evening the Prime Minister has chaired another COBRA meeting of which we reviewed all the information that we have available from a range of sources concerning the Russian airliner crash in Sinai at the weekend.
“As a result of that review we have concluded there is a significant that that crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft.
“Earlier this evening we delayed the return to the UK of British bound flights that were on the ground in Sharm el Sheikh while we conducted a review of security at the airport.
“We have people on the ground working with the Egyptians, and I’d like to pay tribute to Egyptian authorities, who have been extremely cooperative throughout the day and who have moved heaven and earth to meet our demands on the ground.
“Unfortunately and very reluctantly we have concluded that we have to change our travel advice and that we are now advising against all but essential travel by air to Sharm el Sheikh.
“That means that there will be no UK passenger flights out to Sharm el Sheikh from now. Passengers who are on the ground in Sharm el Sheikh will be returned to the UK.
“We are working with the airlines and the Egyptian authorities put in place emergency procedures and additional screening and additional security to ensure they can get home safely either on their original scheduled return dates or if they wish to leave earlier on an earlier date.
“Although I should emphasise we are not changing our advice with regard to the threat level in the Sharm el Sheikh resort itself.
“I recognise that this action will cause immense disruption and inconvenience to many people and I apologise to the people this evening who have gone out to the airport and then have had to go back to their hotels. I also recognise the immense impact this will have on the Egyptian economy but we have to put the safety and security of British nationals above all other considerations.
“When we are in possession of information we will not hesitate to act on it in order to protect that security and we will take whatever criticisms we receive. We have to act in the interest of British nationals.”

Full story on the latest flights suspension

UK flights in and out of Sharm el-Sheikh have been suspended “for the foreseeable future” by the government tonight.
The Foreign Office is now advising against ‘all but essential travel’ to the popular tourist hotspot, due to ‘significant’ concerns that the Russian plane tragedy was caused by a terrorist bomb.
Click below for the full story. 
Daily Mirror / Neil Atkinson
Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond

Flights to be provided for Brits wanting to come home

If people want to come back early, British tourists will have flights provided for them.
However, Brits will not be forced to come back if they don’t want to.
No more UK nationals will be able to fly from this country to Sharm for the foreseeable future, however.

US believe ISIS or affiliate was responsible

Based on monitoring of internal messages of terrorist groups US intelligence chiefs believe the plane was downed by a bomb planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate.
Insiders at the Pentagon have said the communications being analysed are separate from public ISIS claims of responsibility.
“There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane,” an unnamed official said.
He stressed no formal conclusion had been reached by the US intelligence community.
The assessment was aided after looking back at intelligence reports that had been gathered before Saturday’s plane crash and intelligence gathered since then.
America does not have credible or verified intelligence of a specific threat before the crash.
However, the official said, “there had been additional activity in Sinai that had caught our attention.”

Egyptians 'have not seen all of the information' on threat

Mr Hammond said: I’ve spoken to the Egyptian foreign minister just a few moments ago and I recognise his concern.
“He has not seen all of the information and while we respect the Egyptians as partners when we see a threat to British nationals we have to act.”
Until the British government can be confident of security of flights, none will be coming back here.

UK government advising against 'all but essential travel' to Sharm el-Sheikh

The UK government has advised against all but essential travel to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Phillip Hammond has made the announcement tonight following a meeting of the COBRA group with Prime Minister tonight.
Mr Hammond said there is a significant possibility the Russian plane was brought down by an explosive device onboard.

Egypt 'very disappointed' by UK decision

Egypt is not happy with the UK government’s decision.
Foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said he was ‘very disappointed’ by the decision to suspend flights, the BBC reports.
He accusing the UK government of making ‘a premature and unwarranted statement’.

More details on crash victims

More details have been emerging today about those tragically killed in the disaster last weekend.
A top Russian TV star and model has been named as one of victims of a plane crash that killed 224 people in Egypt.
Elena Domashniya, 25, who appeared on the ‘Top Model’ TV show, was travelling back to her home in Saint Petersburg when her plane plunged out of the sky.
Click below for the full story.

Sharm security 'not picking up water bottles'

A number of readers have contacted the Mirror Online expressing their concerns over security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
Among them is Paul Mitchell, who came back from Sharm last month after being evacuated from Tunisia in June.
He said bottles of water were not picked up at all by security, and other travellers have made similar claims

Irish Aviation Authority joins flight suspension

The Irish Aviation Authority tonight directed Irish airlines not to fly to the area.
A statement said: “The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) directs Irish airline operators not to operate to/from Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, Egypt or in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula airspace until further notice.
“An update will issue once further information becomes available.”

COBRA meeting finished

The COBRA meeting has now finished.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond us due to provide an update on the flights delay situation shortly.
Senior government ministers started the meeting at around 6.45pm tonight, to discuss the security situation in Egypt.

If 'bomb' claims proven then it could hasten end to Syria conflict - MP claims

Any confirmation that a Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb planted by Islamic State could help galvanise efforts to end the Syrian civil war, a senior MP has suggested.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would act to focus Moscow’s attention on the threat posed by the extremists.
Russia has been accused by moderate opposition forces of aiding the spread of IS - also known as Isil - by targeting air strikes against opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mr Blunt told the BBC that if the jet carrying Russian tourists from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh was found to have been downed by an IS bomb, it could “focus their attention rather more definitively on islamic State targets”.
“And Mr Putin does not have a reputation for restraint,” he said. “If it does have an effect - and it’s the more positive effect, I hope, in terms of creating an international coalition against Isis - it will be that the Russians are absolutely focused on sharing our objective of destroying Islamic State on the ground in Syria and Iraq, depriving them of the territory that they hold.
“They should realise that a punitive raid is not going to be enough to do that. What this needs is a proper organised coalition of organised ground and air forces operating together in Syria and that requires a settlement of the Syrian civil war to sort out what those ground forces are going to be and what the plan is going to be.
“That then means that they have another incentive to bring the Syrian government to the negotiating table and to agree a transition plan so that we can end the civil war.
“If that, out of this tragedy, is a beneficial effect - to crack heads together amongst the international community and bring the Russians to the negotiating table and, by extension, the Syrian regime who are now their client, then we could begin to get international policy into rather better order so we can begin that process of a proper military operation, ground and air forces, identified as to who is going to do that task, so we retake this territory off Isil.”
Crispin Blunt MP

Investigators trying to determine whether crash was caused by a bomb

The cause of a Russian plane crash in Egypt is looking more like an explosion but it is not clear whether it was linked to a fuel or engine trouble or a bomb, an Egyptian source close to the investigation said today.
The Airbus A321M crashed on Saturday shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to the Russian city of St Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.
“It is believed to be an explosion but what kind is not clear. There is an examination of the sand at the crash site to try and determine if it was a bomb,” the source, who is close to the team investigating the black boxes, told Reuters.
“There are forensic investigations under way at the crash site. That will help determine the cause, to see if traces of explosives are found.”
Barcroft
An Egyptian military helicopter flies over debris of a Russian passenger airplane

Thomas Cook statement

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “As things currently stand, customers due to travel tomorrow morning should travel to their UK departure airport as planned. 
“However, they should be aware that the UK Government due to meet at 6.45pm, and are due to provide an update soon afterwards.
“Should the situation change as a result of that meeting, we will issue a further statement clarifying our position.
“Our customers’ welfare remains our primary concern. Our team in destination will ensure they are kept updated of any developments.”
Newcastle Chronicle

Monarch and Thomas Cook liasing with government

All airlines and travel companies which operate between the two countries have had to abide by the suspension.
In a statement, Monarch and British Airways have both said they were liaising with the Department for Transport, the FCO and UK Security Services and were awaiting further information.
Thomas Cook confirmed it currently has 1,700 tourists in Sharm - and while it has no flights booked for this evening, it has two tomorrow morning.
These are due to depart from London Gatwick at 9am and Manchester at 10am.

BA statement

British Airways has issued a brief statement following the government announcement tonight.
A spokesman said: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority.
“We are liaising closely with the Government and are awaiting further information.”
PA

Concerns about security from previous Sharm visitor

Paul Hurry, from Cheshunt, Herts, spent a fortnight in Sharm-el-Sheikh with his wife Sarah and their six children last month.
The 48-year-old, a full-time carer, was horrified at the “appalling” security at the airport before they flew home.
He told the Mirror: “It was a joke, security was non-existent. I even said to my wife at the time, ‘We could have a bomb or anything’.
“They only checked two of our passports and waved the rest of us through. We could have been anybody.
“The x-ray machines you walk through weren’t working properly. I had a phone, money and belt on and it didn’t go off.
“There was nobody going through any hand luggage either. It went through the machine but nobody was watching the screen.”
Paul, who was flying home on a Monarch plane, added: “We’ve been all over the world on holiday and never experienced anything like it.”

Dozens of Brits stuck in Sharm hotel

A staff member at the Sensatori hotel in Sharm-el-Sheikh said dozens of Britons had been forced to stay on in the resort after flights were halted.
He told the Mirror: “There is no panic here, just a bit of a problem trying to get rooms for the guests that had checked out or were due to leave.
“Nobody is very worried, everyone is just extending their holiday. They are safe here, although it is understandable they want to get home.”
Thomson
Sensatori Resort Sharm El Sheikh

Two easyJet flights delayed

Following the statement by No.10 this evening easyJet has delayed two flights which were due to depart from Sharm El Sheikh this evening.
Both flights are currently delayed pending further advice from the UK Government.
A spokesman said: “We are doing all possible to keep passengers informed. The safety and security of its passengers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority.”
The two flights currently in Sharm El Sheikh are: EZY8854 from Sharm El Sheikh to London Gatwick with an original scheduled departure time of 17:05 UK time* and EZY2398 from Sharm El Sheikh to London Luton with an original scheduled departure time of 16:45 UK time.
”We would advise any passengers due to travel to or from Egypt with easyJet today and tomorrow to check on Flight Tracker for the most up to date information on easyJet.com,” the spokesman added.

Brits caught up in travel trouble

Individual stories of Brits caught up in the Sharm flight ban are already emerging.
Tim Jones, who works in the mobile gaming industry, is on holiday in Sharm at the moment.
On Saturday he posted about delays boarding his flight to Egypt from the UK.

Everything we know so far

The government announcement comes as investigations continue into the tragic incident on Saturday, when a Russian passenger plane crashed in Egypt killing all 224 people on board.
The Downing Street statement is due to be updated after the COBRA meeting is finished tonight.
In the meantime click below for everything we know about the plane delays on so far.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice

Our travel editor's view - part II

Make no mistake, if Sharm goes under then so does the entire Egyptian tourist business. It’s that important.
So this astonishing move by the Government – clearly it must have intelligence to justify it - will of course alarm British holidaymakers, who will be rightly be very concerned about travelling to the Red Sea destination.
However, until the Foreign and Commonwealth Office changes its Sharm status to “advise against all but essential travel” (I suspect that will happen sooner rather than later) you’re basically stuck with your trip there providing the flights are finally given clearance.
If you’ve booked a break with cover via the Civil Aviation Authority’s ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing) protection scheme, then if the FCO steps up its warnings to Sharm to “all but essential travel” prior to your trip and it’s cancelled by your tour operator, then you’d get a full refund.
Unfortunately, if the FCO advice remains the same and you want to change or cancel a trip there because of your concerns, you will need to speak to your tour operator. But first check their booking terms and conditions, as you may well have to pay cancellation or alteration fees.
Of course you should never travel without a suitable insurance policy, but there is unfortunately little chance that any insurer will accept a claim for losses because you simply don’t want to go to Sharm any more.
Monitor the FCO advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/egypt and liaise with your travel agent or tour operator’s customer service department.

Our travel editor's view - part I

In 30 years of writing about travel I’ve never known anything like this – in UK terms it’s frankly extraordinary, unprecedented and of course very worrying for the frightened Brits stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh and for those about to fly there on holiday.
Generally British tourists tend to be fairly robust in the face of terror threats.
But would you want to be on the first plane out of Sharm today, tomorrow or whenever the ban is lifted?
The British Government tends to be fairly circumspect about its travel advice and simply does not push the panic button lightly.
For example, in February 2014 after a fatal terror attack on a tourist coach in the Sinai region, Germany ordered its citizens to refrain from travelling to the Red Sea beach resorts. We did not.
Clearly the situation regarding security and plane departures in Sharm airport is fluid, but nevertheless this is a total, potentially disastrous game changer for the Egyptian tourism industry - and on a wider, global level something not seen since the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.
Around 900,000 Brits holidayed in Egypt in 2014 – down from 1.5 million in 2010 - with the vast majority heading to the previously-secure tourism ‘bubble’ of Sharm.
The country’s holiday trade has suffered greatly since the revolution of winter 2011, though Sharm – with its good weather, luxury resorts and superb scuba diving - has not been anywhere near as badly hit as Cairo or Luxor, and it is absolutely vital to the country’s struggling economy.

The Number 10 statement

The Number 10 spokeswoman said there were no more departures from the UK to Sharm el-Sheikh due today.
“We would underline that this is a precautionary step and we are working closely with the airlines on this approach,” she added.
“We recognise that this information may cause concern for those in Sharm and indeed for those planning to travel to Sharm in the coming days.
“We have deployed extra consular staff to Sharm who will be on hand at the airport, working with the airlines, to assist British holidaymakers there.
“For others, either in resorts at Sharm or planning a holiday to Sharm in the coming days, our advice is to contact your airline or tour operator.
“At this stage we are not changing the level of our travel advice.”
Reuters
Number 10 Downing Street

If you're stuck in Sharm call our newsdesk on 0207 293 3831

It is believed that up to 20,000 Britons are in the Sharm area.
If you’re there and affected by the flights delay, or are at home in the UK and have loved ones abroad, get in touch with us at at the Mirror.
Call our newsdesk on 0207 293 3831 or email webnews@trinitymirror.com
Sharm el Sheikh

David Cameron chairing COBRA meeting

Prime Minister David Cameron is currently chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on the issue, that started at around 6.45pm.
All 224 people on board were killed when the Metrojet flight bound for St Petersburg from Sharm came down in the Sinai desert on Saturday.
The nature of the crash and the lack of an SOS call have fuelled speculation that it was caused by a bomb or missile.
The Prime Minister spoke to Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi last night to discuss security measures at the popular holiday resort’s airport.
Rex
David Cameron

Downing Street announces delays to UK bound flights

Flights from Sharm el-Sheikh to the UK were suspended tonight amid fears that a Russian plane was brought down by a bomb, Downing Street has announced. The “precautionary” move is to allow time for a specialist British team to assess security arrangements in the Egyptian resort.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “While the investigation is still ongoing we cannot say categorically why the Russian jet crashed. But as more information has come to light we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.
“In light of this, and as a precautionary measure, we have decided that flights due to leave Sharm for the UK this evening will be delayed.
“That will allow time for a team of UK aviation experts, currently travelling to Sharm, to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required.
“We expect this assessment to be completed tonight.”

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