Even though there is no proof yet that an explosive device went off on board the A321 aircraft, a number of countries have suspended flights to Egypt, and are in the process of a controlled evacuation of their citizens. In addition, there is ongoing media pressure on Cairo in relation to security gaps at Egypt's airports.
1. What the Investigators Have Said
The crashed plane's flight recorders has already been analyzed and there have so far been two official statements released on them.
Firstly, Egypt's lead investigator Ayman al-Muqaddam said on November 7 that a "noise" was registered in the last second of the cockpit voice recorder, something that he said demands further investigation.
Secondly, the Interstate Aviation Committee officially announced on November 8 that until the parametric recorder abruptly stopped working, the plane was flying at a normal altitude of 9,400 meters and everything seemed fine.
The investigators seem to confirm the initial theory that something happened very suddenly on board the plane, leading to the crash. It is a significant step toward recognizing a terrorist attack as the official cause of the crash, Lenta.ru claims.
While the investigators are busy with their task, some serious organizational and financial measures were adopted by a number of countries last week.
It looks like a terrorist attack was recognized as the de facto recognized cause of the A321 crash long before the investigators began to gently point to this version of events, according to Lenta.ru.
On October 31, some of Europe's largest air carriers, including Lufthansa and AirFrance-KLM) suspended flights over the Sinai Peninsula.
Following suit on November 3-4 were a spate of other air carriers, such as Etihad Airways, Air Arabia, Qatar Airways, Jazeera Airways, Gulf Air, German AirBerlin, as well as a number of Russian companies, including Red Wings, Ural Airlines, Orenburg Airlines, Nordwind Airlines and Kogalymavia, the company which owned the crashed aircraft.
On November 4, the British Foreign Office cited convincing reasons to believe that the A321 plane crash was caused by a bomb on board. This prompted British airlines to cancel flights to Sharm el-Sheikh in a move that was followed by Ireland and the Netherlands.
On November 5, the French Foreign Ministry recommended that the country's citizens should avoid visiting Sharm El Sheikh "without a compelling reason." The ministry also warned French citizens against visiting the Sinai Peninsula. On the same day, Ukraine suspended flights to the area.
Russian authorities first warned against jumping to conclusions and instead focused on conducting a thorough investigation into the plane crash.
But on November 6, Russian Federal Security chief Alexander Bortnikov recommended that Russian air carriers should stop all flights to Egypt pending the investigation, a measure swiftly endorsed Russian President Vladimir Putin. Shortly after, the Russian Transport Ministry ordered the Federal Air Transport Agency to suspend flights to Egypt.
3. Further Scares Uncovered
On November 6, the British media quoted eyewitnesses as saying that there was no security as such at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh. For example, anyone checking in later for their flight could easily jump on a plane without getting their luggage checked.
British tabloid the Daily Mail published a story about a Thomson Airways jet liner being allegedly targeted by an anti-air craft system during a landing at Sharm el-Sheikh airport. According to the newspaper, the missile passed by at a distance of 1,000 feet (300 meters) from the plane.
The Egyptian authorities responded by saying that the passengers allegedly saw a missile launched by the military as part of a drill, a rather original way to alleviate the public's concerns, according to the Lenta.ru.
On November 7, the Associated Press added fuel to the fire by quoting Sharm el-Sheikh airport security officials as revealing a whole array of security gaps at the airport, such as the malfunctioning of a key baggage scanning device.
4. The Silent Verdict
The media frenzy over the lax security at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport may have looked like some kind of hysteria were it not for the fact that a number of major countries have taken the expensive and difficult decision to evacuate their citizens from the country. The governments which have taken these measures seem to have done so after information received between November 4 and November 5, Lenta.ru said.
The lenta.ru article concludes by noting that none of the countries bringing their citizens home have made any official announcements pending the investigation. At the same time, they behave as if they already had a solid confirmation of the terrorist attack on the Russian plane or at least obtained enough information on systemic flaws in the Sharm el-Sheikh airport security.