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Russia Confirms Bomb Downed Plane Over Egypt, Vows Retribution

  • RFE/RL

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin vowed “vengeance” after the country’s security chief confirmed that a “terrorist act” had brought down a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month.

Metrojet's Airbus A321 was heading from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg when it crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 224 people on board. Nearly all the dead were Russians.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for downing the plane, but Russia had said it was waiting for the official results of an investigation into the tragedy.

The head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin late on November 16 that "traces of foreign explosives" were found on debris from the plane.

The Airbus “disintegrated in midair” after an improvised explosive device planted on board the jet went off, he said in footage that was released on November 17, "which explains the wide dispersal of fuselage pieces."

He said the bomb was equivalent to up to 1 kilogram of TNT.

Seek And Destroy

Putin ordered Russia’s secret service to hunt down those responsible, saying, “We will find them in any part of the world and punish them."

The FSB is offering a $50 million reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for downing the Russian jet.

Putin instructed the Foreign Ministry to contact all Moscow's partners for assistance and said that it was counting on "our friends" to help find and punish those behind the plane attack.

He also pledged to step up air strikes in Syria “so that the criminals understand that vengeance is inevitable."

The Egyptian government issued a statement on November 17 pledging it would work with Russia to combat terrorism.

Cairo also said it had yet to find evidence that a criminal act had brought down the passenger plane.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said his government was informed only on November 17 of the results of the Russian investigation and added Egypt would "bear in mind" the Russian conclusion.

Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal sought to cast doubt on the Russian declaration, saying the technical investigation into the crash by experts from Egypt, Russia, France, and Ireland had not concluded its work.

Confirmation that a bomb was smuggled onto the aircraft would likely have a devastating impact on Egypt's vital tourism industry.

Russia launched a bombing campaign in Syria on September 30 to support forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebel groups, including the Islamic State (IS) and other militants.

Russia’s announcement comes three days after 129 people were killed in coordinated attacks in the French capital, Paris. IS militants claimed responsibility for the assault.

Meanwhile, western news agencies quoted a U.S. defense official as saying Russia had staged a significant number of strikes in Syria on November 17.

The unidentified official said Russia told Washington ahead of the attacks it would use both sea-launched cruise missiles and long-range bombers.

At least some of the strikes targeted the IS stronghold of Raqqa, the official added.

With reporting by Interfax, AFP, and Reuters