A passenger jet carrying vacationers came close to being hit by a rocket as it prepared to land at Egypt's Sharm al-Sheikh in August, but the U.K. government said it concluded the incident was not a deliberate attack.
Britain confirmed the incident had occurred, but played down its significance as investigators try to pin down the cause of a Russian passenger plane crash over Egypt's Sinai. Western officials believe it was possibly brought down by a bomb after taking off from Sharm al-Sheikh on Oct. 31.
Britain and Russia have suspended flights to and from the Red Sea resort on concerns that the Metrojet Airbus A321 had been downed by a bomb.
The Homeland Security Department announced Friday a series of new security efforts aimed at international airports in the wake of the crash.
The pilot of August’s Thomson flight from London to Egypt took evasive action after spotting the missile coming toward the plane as it flew to the Red Sea resort, the Daily Mail reported.
"We investigated the reported incident at the time and concluded that it was not a targeted attack and was likely to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by the Egyptian military in the area at the time," Britain's Department for Transport said in a statement.
A government source also told Reuters the rocket was not thought to have come as close as the report suggested.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ahmed Abu Zeid, also tweeted Saturday that the Daily Mail report is "preposterous" and that the incident instead "involved GROUND-TO-GROUND fire exercise" at a military base a few kilometers from the Sharm al-Sheikh airport. There was "no ground-to-air firing involved whatsoever," he said.
Around 79,000 Russians are stranded in Egypt after the Kremlin grounded all flights to the country following a deadly Russian airliner crash, the head of Russia's state tourism agency said Saturday.
Oleg Safonov, the head of Rostourism, said most Russians in Egypt had been holidaying in the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh and that 1,200 had already been returned home.
"A planned process to evacuate tourists will be executed," Russian news agencies quoted Safonov as saying. "Planes will arrive empty and be boarded by those tourists who should return home on that date."
Safonov said passengers would be returning without hold luggage, mirroring a decision made by Britain as part of chaotic efforts to return thousands of its tourists home amid heightened security concerns.
Flights resumed Friday to bring home some 20,000 British tourists from the resort, but the operation descended into chaos when only eight of the 29 flights left. Egypt blamed Britain's insistence that passengers returned without all their luggage, meaning the airport was unable to cope with mountains of baggage.