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Russians say improvised explosive device brought down jet in Sinai

Russian officials say that an improvised explosive device (IED) brought down Metrojet Flight 9268 in the Sinai on October 31. The officials announced their conclusion during a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has posted a transcript of the meeting online.

Investigators from the US, the UK and France have said it is increasingly likely that terrorists downed the jet. Still, Western counterterrorism and intelligence officials have not offered a definitive explanation, saying there is some uncertainty surrounding the crash. The Russian and Egyptian governments were also initially reticent to label it an act of terrorism.

The Islamic State's so-called Sinai "province" issued a claim of responsibility hours after the airliner crashed. The Islamic State and its Sinai "branch" have repeated that claim several times since then.

Assuming the details provided by the Russian government are accurate, then authorities have confirmed that the jet was downed by terrorists.

"You can definitely say that this is a terrorist act," the head of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov, told Putin during their meeting.

Bortnikov said that a study of the passengers' "personal belongings" and baggage, as well as the aircraft parts, "revealed traces" of a foreign explosive. The IED had a "capacity" equivalent "of up to 1 kg [2.2. pounds] of TNT," according to Bortnikov, resulting in the aircraft breaking up midair and spreading parts of the fuselage over a great distance.

Putin vowed "to find and punish the perpetrators," saying Russia's bombings in Syria "must not only continue," but be increased, so that those responsible "realize that retribution is inevitable."

"We should pursue them without any statute of limitations and should know all of them by name," Putin continued, according to Sputnik, a Russian propaganda outlet. "We will be looking for them wherever they would try to hide. We will find them in any part of the world and punish them."

Russia also announced a $50 million reward for information on the terrorists' responsible.

All 224 passengers and crew members on board the Russian jet were killed in the presumed bombing and subsequent crash. Just two weeks later, on November 13, a team of terrorists assaulted several locations throughout the city of Paris. The latest casualty reports say at least 129 people were killed in those attacks, which the Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for.

Therefore, the Islamic State has likely killed at least 353 civilians in high-profile terrorist operations since the end of October. The "caliphate" frequently kills civilians in all of the areas it operates in.

Both Russia and France have stepped up their airstrikes against the Islamic State in recent weeks. The "caliphate" regularly posts photos allegedly showing the aftermath of Russia's bombings. Three such photosets published online in early November purportedly showed the damage done by Russian airstrikes in Raqqa, the de facto capital of the "caliphate," and in Al Bukamal, a city lying on the Euphrates River in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq.

The Islamic State and its Sinai "province" have insisted that its members were responsible for downing the Russian airliner.

Within hours of the crash, the Sinai "province" issued a statement saying that "[s]oldiers of the caliphate were able to down a Russian airplane." The Islamic State's Al Bayan radio later released an audio version of the statement. On November 4, the Islamic State again said it was responsible, defiantly arguing in an audio message that it doesn't have to prove how it destroyed the airliner. The group added, however, that it would release evidence to support its claim at some point in the future. It has not yet released such proof.

Then, on November 6, the Islamic State's Aleppo "province" released a video congratulating the Sinai "province" for its successful attack on the Russian jet. The video portrayed the Islamic State as being at war with Russia, the US, the Iranians, Bashar al Assad's regime, and others.

The Islamic State's Caucasus "province" has also claimed an attack on Russian forces in Dagestan. On September 2, the group released a statement saying its jihadists had assaulted a Russian army barracks, killing and wounding a "number" of Russians. The claim could not be independently verified, but the US State Department subsequently said the attack "resulted in the deaths and injuries of a number of Russian citizens."

[Source: By Thomas Joscelyn, The Long War Journal, NJ, 17Nov15]

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