Plane carrying 224 people crashes after leaving Egypt

The Metrojet flight was bound for St Petersburg
The Metrojet flight was bound for St Petersburg

A Russian aircraft carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members has crashed in the restive Sinai peninsula, Egypt's ministry of civil aviation said.

Search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the Russian passenger jet in the Hassana area south of the restive city of el-Arish, where Egyptian security forces are fighting a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency, the ministry said in a statement.

The plane took off from Sinai's Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists, and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after take-off, it said.

The aircraft took off at 5.51am local time bound for St Petersburg in Russia, the statement added. Earlier in the day, an Egyptian official with the government's incidents committee told local media that the plane had briefly lost contact but was now safely in Turkish airspace.

Plane tracking website Flight Radar said Metrojet flight 7K9268 disappeared over Egypt 23 minutes after departure from Sharm el-Sheikh.

A Cyprus civil aviation official said Cairo air traffic control notified Cypriot authorities that they had lost contact with a Russian aircraft early on Saturday. The official said the aircraft's last contact was with Egyptian authorities before disappearing. He said the aircraft did not make contact with Cypriot authorities.

Turkish government spokesmen said they had no information about the missing Russian plane ever entering Turkish airspace.

Prime minister Sherif Ismail has cancelled a visit to the city of Ismailiya and formed an operations room to follow up on the situation, Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency said.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on her Facebook page that Russian embassy personnel in Egypt are working to clarify the situation.