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Egypt recovers black box from crashed airplane

Several airlines have decided to stop flying over the Sinai as a precaution
The wreckage was found roughly 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the North Sinai town of El-Arish (AFP)

Egypt has recovered the black box of a Russian airliner that crashed on Saturday in the restive Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board, the prime minister's office said.

"The black box was recovered from the tail of the plane and has been sent to be analysed by experts," the office of Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said, adding that rescuers had recovered 129 bodies from the site of the crash.

Ismail later told a press conference that experts will "start examining the information in the black box, and based on this we will study the causes of the crash".

Meanwhile, Air France and Lufthansa said on Saturday they have decided to stop flying over Egypt's Sinai peninsula.

The airlines said they are taking this step as a precaution while the crash is under investigation.

The Islamic State (IS) group affiliate in Egypt has claimed responsibility for the plane's downing, but Russia's transport minister said the claim "cannot be considered accurate" and an Egyptian security official said the plane did not crash because of an attack.

An Air France spokesperson told AFP they would not fly over Sinai until further notice, "as a precaution" while "clarification" was sought over why the Russian charter plane crashed.

Lufthansa told the German newspaper Die Welt it was taking the same measure for the same reason.

Military experts have told AFP that IS militants in Sinai do not have weapons capable of hitting an aircraft at 30,000 feet (9,000 metres), the altitude of the airliner when it lost contact.

But they have not ruled out a bomb on board or the possibility that the plane was hit by a rocket as it descended because of technical problems.

A senior Egyptian air traffic control official said the pilot of the Airbus A321 told him in their last communication that he had radio trouble.

The last major commercial airliner crash in Egypt happened in 2004, when a Flash Airlines Boeing 737 plunged into the Red Sea after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh.

The 148 people aboard that flight, most of whom were French, were killed.

Millions of tourists, many of them Russian, visit the resort town, one of Egypt's major draws for holidaymakers looking for pristine beaches and scuba diving.

The Kogalymavia flight with 214 Russian and three Ukranian passengers and seven crew, had taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in south Sinai bound for Saint Petersburg.

Two air accident investigators from France - Airbus's home country - are to travel to Egypt along with six experts from the aerospace giant to help with the probe.

The wreckage was found roughly 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the North Sinai town of El-Arish, Egyptian officials said.

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