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What's Next For The Russian Airliner Investigation?


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. The crash of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula last weekend killed 224 people and has left lingering questions about who's responsible. NPR's Leila Fadel is in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. She joins us now. Leila, thanks for being with us.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: Egyptian officials yesterday said that they were focusing their investigation on the cockpit voice recorders and a sound that was heard right before the plane broke up. Do we know anything more about the investigation at this point?

FADEL: They've really said very little publicly other than this press conference. There have been published news reports today saying that Egypt is 90 percent sure this was a bomb. But officially, they're denying that. Officially, they're not even using the word explosion or bomb. They've described what they say is an in-flight breakup. So they've really been very careful about what they say publicly, while other Western countries - countries who care about tourism and their tourists here - are saying it is likely a blast that brought down that plane.

MARTIN: Russia, other countries, have canceled flights due to concerns about terrorism. Has any particular group been linked to this crash?

FADEL: Yes, the extremist group, the self-declared Islamic State, has claimed it not once but twice and celebrated in online forums for bringing down a Russian airline, saying it is in revenge or to avenge people killed in Russian airstrikes inside Syria. And so so far, they've claimed it twice. And U.S. officials have also said it seems to be that they are responsible.

MARTIN: And what's the mood, Leila? As you talk to people in Sharm el-Sheikh, are they consumed with this investigation? Are they worried about it?

FADEL: Sharm el-Sheikh is a city that - it depends entirely on tourism, tens of thousands of Egyptians whose livelihood is entirely based on people coming here and making sure they come to these all-inclusive beach hotels when Russia is cold, when the U.K. is cold. And so they're very worried that they won't be able to feed their families. If Russian flights and British flights don't resume, that is a good half, if not a majority, of the business in this town. And so there's a lot of concern. There's also a lot of inconvenienced tourists who are going back and forth to the airport and back to their resort. But ultimately, this is a beach destination. The hotels seem to feel that this city is safe. The bigger concern is security at the airport itself.

MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel in Sharm el-Sheikh. Thanks so much for talking with us.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.