Russia’s security services said on Tuesday that that a homemade explosive device brought down the Russian passenger jet that crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in October, belatedly confirming that the 224 passengers were the first in a series of victims of ISIS attacks.
The pronouncement by the head of Russia’s FSB security service largely lays to rest speculation about the cause of the crash that killed 224 people on Oct. 31, although an international investigation is ongoing in Egypt. Prior to Tuesday’s announcement, Russia had resisted assigning a cause for the crash.
The declaration also means that the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for three catastrophic attacks on civilians outside of its normal arena of its operations in under three weeks. Along with last week’s deadly attacks in Paris and Beirut, the attacks signal an intent to inflict massive civilian casualties far beyond the group’s territorial core in Iraq and Syria.
The news also raises the stakes of Russia’s military campaign in Syria. ISIS claimed that it brought down the jet in retaliation for Russian airstrikes. To date those airstrikes have concentrated on other rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime but have also hit ISIS positions.
“There’s no statute of limitations for this. We need to know all of their names,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re going to look for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any place on Earth and punish them.”
Both France and Russia conducted strikes that targeted ISIS on Tuesday, a French military official told Reuters. French President Francois Hollande announced Tuesday that he would meet with President Barack Obama in Washington on Nov. 24, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Nov. 26.
FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov said that a homemade explosive device equivalent to one kilogram of TNT detonated on board the Russian jet. He told Putin that “traces of foreign explosives” had been found onboard the plane.
The Metrojet plane broke apart while flying above 30,000 feet over the Sinai. ISIS’ branch in Egypt, which calls itself the Sinai Province, claimed responsibility on the day of the crash. The British and American governments previously said they suspected the plane was brought down by a bomb.
There was no immediate response from the Egyptian government, which has resisted the notion that a bomb was responsible for the crash, insisting that the investigation run its course before determining a cause.
The so-called Sinai Province of ISIS is an outgrowth of a local insurgent group that has waged a violent struggle with the Egyptian state in the northern Sinai Peninsula. The group declared allegiance to ISIS in 2014, but prior to the Russian jet crash the majority of its attacks targeted Egypt’s military and security forces.
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