ISIL takes toll on Egypt’s economy as tourists leave Sinai

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Russia, Britain and several Western European nations sent airliners to Egypt on Oct. 9 to bring home thousands of tourists from the Sinai Peninsula amid an increased terror threat from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

Thousands of tourists were stranded at the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh after foreign airliners warned that they were halting service after the Oct. 31 crash of a Russian airliner, which U.S. and British intelligence officials believe was brought down by a bomb. Most of the 224 people killed in the crash were Russian tourists.

Passengers board an Egyptair Express plane bound for Cairo at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport, south Sinai, Egypt on Nov. 9. /AP/Thomas Hartwell
Passengers board an Egyptair Express plane bound for Cairo at Sharm el-Sheikh Airport on Nov. 9. /AP/Thomas Hartwell

The Russian tourists are only being allowed carry-on luggage for their return trip. Russian cargo planes are bringing back the rest of their luggage.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he does not expect Russia will resume flights to Egypt any time soon.

Meanwhile, thousands of British tourists remained stranded over the weekend when easyJet airline said it was refused permission to fly some of its planes to Egypt. The airline said just two of its 10 planned flights had been given permission to fly out of Egypt.

There were said to be about 20,000 UK tourists in Sharm el-Sheikh at the time of the Russian airliner crash.

“The situation for UK flights in Sharm el-Sheikh remains fluid. We are being advised that the Egyptian authorities will allow a restricted number of UK flights,” easyJet said. “We are working with the UK government at the highest level on a solution,” it added in a statement.

Egypt’s civil aviation ministry denied it was blocking flights, saying the numbers were limited by airport capacity.

ISIL’s Sinai-based affiliate has claimed responsibility for the crash. If confirmed, it would be the terror group’s first attack on civil aviation.

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