Sinai Plane Crash: Bodies of Victims Flown Back to Russia

The bodies of 144 of those killed when a Russian passenger jet disintegrated over the northern Sinai peninsula have been returned to Russia, after a national day of mourning was held in the country on Sunday, reports the BBC.

The 224 people on board the Airbus 321—the majority of whom were Russians—died after the aircraft broke up in mid-air on Saturday, according to the head of the Russian Air Transport Agency, Aleksandr Neradko.

Around 25 children were onboard as well as four Ukrainians and one person from Belarus. The youngest passenger was a 10-month old girl returning from holiday with both her parents.

A Russian government transport plane carrying the victims landed at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport on Monday morning. A second flight carrying more victims will arrive on Monday night. The remains of the dead will be taken to a crematorium in St. Petersburg for relatives to identify the bodies, according to Russia's Emergency Ministry.

An investigation is ongoing into what caused the crash. Jihadis affiliated with so-called Islamic State operating in the region have claimed that they brought down the flight, but this has been widely discredited by Egyptian and Russian officials, who say that militant groups in the area would not have the right weapons to bring down a passenger jet flying at a height of 9,450m (31,000ft).

The Telegraph reports that a technical fault or a bomb on board the plane could have caused the plane to break up at high altitude, citing aviation experts.

According to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport at 5.58 a.m. heading for St. Petersburg. It went off the radar at 6.20 a.m.