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US Detected 'Heat Flash' before Russian Jet Went Down

US Detected 'Heat Flash' before Russian Jet Went Down
Russian women await word on relatives' remains in St. Petersburg. (AP)

Tuesday, 03 November 2015 09:26 AM

U.S. military infrared satellite detected a midair heat flash just before a Russian airliner went down on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board, CNN reports.

CBS notes that the data is still being analyzed to determine what caused the heat flash. One possibility is a bomb, but another possibility could be an explosion in a fuel tank or engine as the result of a mechanical failure.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday that investigators have begun the examination of the two black boxes found after the crash in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

One theory that isn't deemed credible is ISIS' statement that they downed the Airbus A321.

Though the possibility is not being ruled out, British military analyst Paul Beaver noted "That's a very serious piece of equipment, and I don't think they have that sophistication.

Sisi described the claim by the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State jihadist group as "propaganda."

The examination of the black boxes -- one which recorded on-board conversations and the other flight data -- started around midday (1000 GMT), an Egyptian civil aviation ministry official told AFP.

The probe could last several weeks or months if the recordings in the black boxes have been damaged, sources said. Russia's government commission overseeing the investigation was also due to meet on Tuesday.

The Saint Petersburg-bound plane operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia crashed 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Most of the passengers were Russian tourists. Kogalymavia said the plane crashed due to "external action," and that there was no technical fault or human error. It insisted the aircraft was in an "excellent technical condition."

Within hours of the crash, the Egyptian affiliate of ISIS based in the Sinai claimed it had downed the jet in retaliation for Russian airstrikes targeting fellow jihadists in Syria.

"When there is propaganda that it crashed because of ISIS, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt," Sisi told the BBC. "The plane was at 35,000 feet (10,668 meters) altitude. Believe me, the situation in Sinai -- especially in this limited area -- is under our full control."

Sisi warned the probe could take years as in the case of Pan-Am flight 103 from London to New York that was brought down by a bomb and crashed into the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

"It takes time to clarify the incidents. You had the Pan-American that crashed over Europe. It took years before you reached the truth about the real reasons why it crashed," Sisi said.

On Monday, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said it was "unlikely" that ISIS was involved in the Kogalymavia plane crash but did not rule out the possibility.

Alexander Neradko, head of Russia's aviation authority, criticized the airline's comments ruling out technical fault or human error, saying they were "premature and not based on any real facts."

Cairo, Moscow and Washington have downplayed the ISIS claim, although analysts have not ruled out that a bomb may have been planted on board. Experts say the fact that debris and bodies were strewn over a wide area points to a mid-air disintegration of the aircraft unlike most air crashes.

They said that left two possibilities -- a technical fault that caused the plane to disintegrate, or an explosion caused by a bomb smuggled on board.

Search operations have been extended to a radius of 40 kilometers (25 miles). President Vladimir Putin has described the crash -- Russia's worst air disaster -- as a "huge tragedy."

"Without any doubt everything must be done to create an objective picture of events so that we know what happened and can react accordingly," he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in the investigation Moscow "cannot exclude any version" of events but warned against "guessing" the cause of the crash.

Relatives of those who died in the crash have begun the painful process of identifying their loved ones after two planes delivered the remains of many of the victims to Saint Petersburg.

"The process of identification has begun. It is complex, meticulous work," Saint Petersburg deputy governor Igor Albin told journalists Monday outside the crematorium where the remains are being stored. Family members had already been providing DNA samples at a crisis center set up near Saint Petersburg's Pulkovo airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people have brought flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children.

Newsmax reporter Loren Gutentag contributed to this report

© AFP 2021

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U.S. military infrared satellite detected a midair heat flash just before a Russian airliner went down on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board, CNN reports.CBS notes that the data is still being analyzed to determine what caused the heat flash. One possibility is a...
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Tuesday, 03 November 2015 09:26 AM
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