An analysis of black boxes from the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt point to a bomb attack, sources close to the probe said on Friday, as Moscow halted flights to the country.
The flight data and voice recorders showed “everything was normal” until both failed at 24 minutes after take off, pointing to “a very sudden explosive decompression,” one source said.
The data “strongly favours” the theory a bomb on board had brought down the plane, he added.
Another source said the plane had gone down suddenly and violently.
Meanwhile, British airlines were scrambling to evacuate passengers in Sharm el-Sheikh after cancelling flights to the Red Sea resort from which the doomed Airbus had taken off Saturday.
One of the black boxes recovered from the crash site showed that the plane suffered “a violent, sudden” end, a source close to the case in Paris told AFP.
The flight data recorder showed that “everything was normal during the flight, absolutely normal, and suddenly there was nothing”.
President Vladimir Putin ordered flights halted on the recommendation from his security chief, the Kremlin said, although Moscow had previously downplayed reports that a bomb caused the crash.
At an emergency meeting, the head of Russia’s FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, said it would be prudent to halt flights for now.
“Until we have determined the true reasons for what happened, I consider it expedient to stop flights by Russian aviation to Egypt,” he said.
With international concerns mounting, European airlines prepared to bring home thousands of tourists from the Red Sea resort, which has been a jewel in Egypt’s tourism crown.
A first flight landed at London’s Gatwick airport Friday afternoon, after a lengthy delay to its departure. Another plane was also headed for Britain.
There were angry scenes at the airport as thousands of anxious Britons, who had also hoped to fly home, were sent back to their hotels after Egypt blocked several other repatriation flights.
British Ambassador John Casson was heckled as he announced the news.
Egyptian Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said only eight of 29 flights would take off because the airport could not cope with all the luggage left behind.
In a sign of mounting fears about the security of baggage handling in Egypt, Dutch carrier KLM announced that it had banned check-in luggage on an early flight from Cairo, mirroring moves taken by several European airlines.