The black box recorder of the Russian passenger plane that crashed on its way back from Egypt’s Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last week killing all 224 people on board reportedly reveals a loud explosion heard on the jet before it went down.
Sky News, citing a report from French television channel France 2, reported Saturday that the black boxes from the doomed airliner “distinctly show the sound of an explosion during the flight.”
The report of an explosion heard on the black box recorder comes after British and American officials revealed that it was possible a bomb on board had brought the plane down. Russian officials responded Friday agreeing to suspend all Russian flights to Egypt.
The suspension, covering all of Egypt, is even more sweeping than the one previously imposed by Britain, which had halted flights to Sharm el-Sheikh only.
"I think it will be reasonable to suspend all Russian flights to Egypt until we determine the real reasons of what happened," intelligence chief Alexander Bortnikov said in televised comments. "It concerns tourist flights most of all."
Acting director of the Russian Association of Tour Operations, Maya Lomidze, said Saturday that 46 empty Russian planes are expected to be sent to Egypt to bring stranded tourists home and another 47 flights are planned for Sunday, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.
Nordic nations Denmark, Norway and Finland have also urged their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Norway's Foreign Ministry said Saturday it also urged people already in Sharm el-Sheik not to travel further around the Sinai Peninsula, where Egypt is fighting an Islamic insurgency. Finland made a similar recommendation.
A U.S. government source with the intelligence reaffirmed to Fox News the possibility of a “high end” device planted on the aircraft. A separate source said the “crash signature,” included the flash picked up by military intelligence, and the scope of the debris field were in keeping with a bomb.
While no firm conclusions about the cause of the crash have been made, and a catastrophic failure has not been ruled out, the Homeland Security department confirmed that increased screening at foreign airports with flights coming into the U.S. reflected the freshest information.
"We're mindful of new information, want to make sure we communicate as much as possible about information the US government has learned and be sure national security officials are taking steps to protect the American people," White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained, while emphasizing the new measures are not permanent.
There are currently 45,000 Russian tourists on vacation in Egypt, Russian news agency TASS reported, according to the Telegraph. Around 20,000 British tourists remain stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh. Rescuing tourists out of Egypt have come increasingly difficult as Egyptian authorities diverted multiple flights without reason.
Last-minute changes forced 21 of the 29 scheduled services to change course of action, according to Sky News.
The BBC reported Friday that officials in London have not completely ruled out the possibility that the Metrojet 9268 crashed due to a technical fault. However, they now view such a scenario as highly unlikely.
Sky News reported that British intelligence operatives uncovered chatter Wednesday during a review of intercepted conversations following the Oct. 31 disaster that suggested a plot to bomb a passenger plane in the region. The Daily Telegraph reported that the conversations involved Islamist militants known to U.S. and British intelligence, while the Times of London reported that the tone and content of the intercepted conversations between militants in Syria and Sinai convinced officials that the bomb had been carried on board by a passenger or member of the airport's ground staff.
The Telegraph also reported that investigators are focusing on the possibility that a baggage handler at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport smuggled the bomb onto the doomed Airbus A321-200.
Egypt and Russia have repeatedly dismissed suggestions by the U.S. and Britain that a terror attack brought down the flight. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi Thursday said that British officials had sent a security team to evaluate the Sharm el-Sheikh airport 10 months ago and were satisfied with the results.
"They checked the security actions, they were happy with that," he told reporters at 10 Downing Street through an interpreter. However, the Telegraph reported that the British team had urged the Egyptians to carry out more background checks on tarmac baggage handlers and add more scanners. It is unclear if the recommendations were carried out.
Meanwhile, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that investigators had determined that a missile that came within 1,000 feet (300 meters) of a plane carrying British tourists to Sharm el-Sheikh on Aug. 23 was "probably a flare." The Thomson jet was carrying 189 passengers.
The spokesman for Egypt's Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Abu Zeid, tweeted Saturday that the incident involved a "ground-to-ground fire exercise" at an Egyptian military base a few kilometers from the Sharm el-Sheikh airport. The spokesman said airliners had previously been informed of the military exercise and that the Egyptian and British governments were "fully aware that plane was in no danger."
The Sinai Peninsula has been described as a “No Man’s Land,” where temperatures vary from freezing temperatures to 122 degrees. A veteran Egyptian journalist says there is no lack of recruitment opportunities for the terrorist group that is the fastest growing ISIS affiliate.
It is "much easier for Ansar Beit-al Maqdis to recruit bedouin young people from Sinai to become jihadists since their humanity was totally neglected by the Egyptian government..."Mohammed Gohar said "Some may be in the tourism business and working as hotel workers of Sharm el Sheikh."
Their latest name is "Sinai Province" but are also known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdi (ABM). After Egypt's Hosni Mubarek was overthrown from power in 2011, they targeted the Egyptian military and drove security forces away from the region which has longed been used by smugglers and traffickers.
The group’s leadership is known to move around in groups of 5 to 10 people, and Gohar said the suspicion is that the group deliberately targeted the Russian plane on the one year anniversary of the one year anniversary of their sworn oath to align themselves with ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge and Pamela Browne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.