The United Kingdom was set to being evacuating 20,000 British tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh on Friday — but their checked bags will be flying separately.
“We are working with the airlines to ensure there are suitable arrangements in place to reunite passengers with their belongings as soon as possible,” a 10 Downing Street spokesperson said.
Outgoing flights from the UK to the Red Sea resort remain suspended. The Telegraph reported that British spies uncovered an ISIS bomb plot after the Halloween crash of a Russian Metrojet over the Sinai — triggering the move to freeze flights.
That “chatter” was what led British Prime Minister David Cameron to say the plane was likely downed by a bomb before other world leaders would say the word.
The British Foreign Office “continues to advise against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el-Sheikh airport,” while the United States hasn’t issued a security update for citizens in Egypt since Nov. 2 and has not issued a travel warning for the country.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was in London today — his first visit as president — for talks with Cameron, and said at a joint press conference that the two had a “good mutual understanding” of how to align their responses.
“Ten months ago we were asked by our British friends to send teams to Sharm el-Sheikh airport, to make sure that all the security procedures there are well enough, and provide the adequate safety and security for the passengers,” el-Sisi said. “…We have received the teams, we have co‑operated with them. And they checked the security actions; they were happy with that, and we are still ready to co‑operate on this particular area. Not necessarily on one airport but with all the airports.”
Extremists have already caused tourism, an economic lifeblood for Egypt, to plummet, and el-Sisi reiterated that he’s “completely ready to cooperate with all our friends to make sure that the security measures taken at our airport provide the safety and security needed for the people who come to us.”
“…And we also talked about the actions needed to make sure that this will not have any negative ramifications on the future of tourism in Egypt, and that in the soonest time possible we restore the movement of tourists, of British tourists, to Egypt. Those who come to Egypt to enjoy their time; those who we are very happy to receive in our country.”
When asked why he was responding with more urgency than other world leaders, Cameron said he was going by the intelligence he’s been receiving.
“Of course I cannot be sure, my experts cannot be sure that it was a terrorist bomb that brought down that Russian plane. But if the intelligence and the judgment are that that is a more likely than not outcome, then I think it’s right to act in the way that I did,” the prime minister said.
Cameron also pushed back on a question about whether Britain helped create ISIS with intervention in Iraq, noting that “one of the biggest acts of Islamist extremist violent terrorism was of course the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, which preceded those events.”
“That came first, and I would argue that the problem of extremist Islamism and violence has been a growing problem, and it’s a problem which is effectively a battle that’s taking place within Islam,” he said.
“I know, and you know, that Islam is a religion of peace; a religion followed by millions in our world as a guide to their life and a source of faith, and a source of strength. But there is a minority of a minority, as it were, that have taken the tenets of this religion and poisoned them, and turned them into a perverse narrative that justifies suicide bombs and killing and maiming, and all the things that IS are doing – so‑called IS are doing in Syria and Iraq. And indeed, that Islamist extremist terrorists are doing in other countries of the world.”
A British government review of policy toward the Muslim Brotherhood is due by the end of the year, and Cameron promised “a much more robust approach against extremism.” El-Sisi has already shown a robust response against the Brotherhood.
“Against extremism of all kinds, and against those extremists that stop just short of endorsing violence, but nonetheless those extremists whose worldview encourages people to pursue a path of violence, and that is very much our approach here in the UK,” Cameron added.
President Obama’s only response to the reports of what would be a major ISIS coup was that “it’s certainly possible that there was a bomb on board.”
“I think there’s a possibility that there was a bomb on board, and we’re taking that very seriously,” Obama said in an interview with KIRO/CBS News Radio. “We’re going to spend a lot of time just making sure our own investigators and own intelligence community find out what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements.”
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke with Cameron by phone on Thursday “at the initiative of the British side.”