Russian plane crash: US intelligence ‘says bomb was planted by Islamic State’ as Britain suspends Sharm el-Sheikh flights.
US intelligence suggests a bomb planted by Isil or an affiliate brought down the plane, according to a source speaking to CNN.
The source said there is a “definite feeling” in the intelligence community that it was a bomb, and not mechanical failure, and that Isil is the likely culprit.
Additional US intelligence sources have now confirmed that it appears the plane was brought down by a bomb, and that Isil is the chief suspect.
Those revelations follow a UK statement earlier in the day that the plane “may well” have been brought down by an explosive device.
The Egyptian foreign minister called that statement “premature”. Egyptian authorities had previously said they did not believe a terrorist attack took place.
Roland Oliphant in Moscow says the revelations that an Isil bomb may have brought down the MetroJet flight put Vladimir Putin in a difficult position.
A massive and inexcusable act of negligence that raises questions about the entire national aviation industry, or a vicious and bloody terrorist attack explicitly designed to punish Russia for the Kremlin’s intervention into the Syrian civil war.
Whatever brought down the Metrojet Airbus, the worst aviation disaster in Russian history has massive implications for the Russian government and the public.
By suspending all flights between Britain and Sharm el-Sheikh pending a security review, David Cameron has now given the clearest indication yet that governments believe terrorism may be at the root of the disaster.
If so, Vladimir Putin and his advisors will have to think hard about how to respond.
Pollsters say Russian public support for the Syrian adventure, though high, is fragile. While many Russians are happy with the abstract idea of ‘bombing terrorists,” few are prepared to take casualties by getting involved in a far-away civil war.
However, one reason for that ambivalence is that many Russians don’t really see Isil as an imminent threat to national security. If Isil’s claims of responsibility turn out to be genuine, it may actually boost public support for Mr Putin’s war in Syria – at least in the short term.
Either way, he and his government will come under massive pressure to respond, forcefully and visibly, against the perpetrators.
Mr Putin first cemented his popularity by ruthlessly crushing Chechen separatism following a series of horrific terrorist attacks in the early 2000s.
His crude approach to the issue, summed up in his infamous comment that “we’ll kill them in the outhouse if we have to,” has produced a myriad of documented human rights abuses – but it met with widespread approval from a Russian public exhausted by atrocities like apartment block bombings, exploding airliners, and the Beslan School and Dubrovka Theatre sieges.
In short, Mr Putin cannot afford not to live up to that reputation now. But retaliation carries its own risks.
When the Kremlin launched military intervention in Syria just over a month ago, officials were at pains to stress that there would be no mission creep: it would be Russians in the air, but strictly Syrians, Iranians, and Hizbollah on the ground.
They probably meant it. Russia’s leaders remain conscious of the Soviet Union’s disastrous entanglement in Afghan 30 years ago, and of the British and American misadventures there and in Iraq more recently.
No one, however, starts a mission intending it to creep, and many of Russia’s most respected political experts warned that just such a dramatic act of terror could drag Russia deeper into the war in Syria than Mr Putin at first intended.
“God forbid a Russian pilot is captured by Isil and burnt alive as the Jordanian one was,” one highly respected Russian foreign policy expert said at the time. “Russia is not a country that can afford not to respond to something like that.”
If the Metrojet disaster really was the work of terrorists, just such a moment has arrived.
H/T The Telegraph UK.