Russian intelligence officials now believe that a bomb was responsible for bringing down the Metrojet airline that crashed in Egypt in late October, killing all 224 passengers on board, Interfax news agency reports. There are also now reports that Egyptian authorities have arrested two Sharm el-Sheikh airport employees they believe may have assisted the bombers.
“According to our specialists’ assessment, a homemade explosive device with an equivalent of 1 kilogram of TNT on board the aircraft exploded,” Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russian Security Service (FSB), told Sputnik. “We can definitely say this was a terrorist act.”
Reacting to the news, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin vowed to “find the culprits” and “punish them,” reports Interfax. “Russia [will] act in accordance with article 51 of UN charter envisaging self-defense right,” he added. “Everyone harboring culprits behind A321 crash must bear this in mind.”
Investigators concluded that terrorism was involved after discovering traces of explosives amongst the plane’s wreckage and luggage.
Up until today, Russian officials had been skeptical over speculation on what was behind the Metrojet crash, telling local media that it was premature to conclude that a bomb had been on the plane. “At the moment it is only possible to talk about the presence of undefined sounds registered by the flight recorder,” one official said.
But Western intelligence officials suggested that there had been growing evidence that the plane had broken up mid-air due to an explosive on board.
British prime minister David Cameron said that a possibility of a bomb was more likely than not. US president Barack Obama echoed those sentiments. “I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board and we’re taking that very seriously,” he said. The Egyptian government, however, whose officials had been leading the investigation, had expressed doubts that terrorism was behind the crash. Now, it looks like the global view has coalesced around that conclusion.
An ISIL affiliate, the group that is also behind last Friday’s attack in Paris, had claimed responsibility for the crash, saying that the Metrojet plane had been carrying “Russian crusaders.”
Last month, Russia launched military strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. In light of these latest revelations, Putin has said that his government’s military operations in Syria against the group will not only continue but intensify, according to Interfax. He has also offered a $50 million reward for anyone who will provide information that will lead to the capture of those responsible.