LONDON - Britain has grounded all flights returning to the country from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The move follows U.S. and British intelligence reports suggesting the Russian Metrojet plane that crashed Saturday after take off from Sharm el-Sheikh was downed by a bomb.
Britain is the first country to halt all flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh following Saturday’s Metrojet crash.
At a news conference with visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was acting to protect the 20,000 British tourists scheduled to fly home from the Egyptian airport during the coming days.
“Of course I cannot be sure, my experts cannot be sure that it was a terrorist bomb that brought down that Russian plane. But if the intelligence is, and the judgment is, that that is a more likely than not outcome, then I think that it is right to act in the way that I did," he said.
Britain has sent security teams to Sharm el-Sheikh to check security measures. Sissi said they are welcome.
“We are completely ready to co-operate with all our friends to make sure that the security measures taken at our airport provide the safety and security needed for the people who come to us," he said.
Britain is acting on its own intelligence sources, says security expert Sajjan Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation.
“The anniversary is coming up of the ISIS affiliate in Egypt declaring its loyalty to the leader of the organization, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And there was electronic chatter suggesting that there could potentially be another attack on the aviation industry," he said.
Russia and Egypt have said it is too early to speculate on the cause of the crash. They should release more details from the investigation, says Gohel.
“Keep in mind that Egypt and Russia stand to lose a lot if it is proved that this is terrorism," he said.
Outside Cameron’s Downing Street residence, dozens of human rights campaigners demonstrated against the Egyptian president’s visit. But security, rather than concerns over democracy, will dominate Sissi’s two-day visit.