US Officials: ISIS "Likely" Had Bomb On Russian Plane

On Wednesday, IS Sinai released a statement reiterating the contention that the Russian passenger jet which fell out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula last weekend was “downed” by an act of terrorism. The ISIS “home office” (so to speak) in Raqqa aired a video congratulating their Egyptian “brothers” on the “achievement.”

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, officials attempted to discredit the ISIS video which purported to show the plane exploding in mid-air. While we were quick to note that it’s virtually impossible to verify the video’s authenticity, we also pointed out that if the footage was indeed genuine, someone on the ground knew exactly when to start filming which would certainly seem to suggest that whatever happened to the Russian jet was premeditated. 

Whatever one chooses to believe, evidence continues to pile up to support the contention that the plane broke apart in the sky - i.e. that the plane exploded. 

For instance, an Egyptian forensics expert noted that the scattering of body parts over an eight kilometer radius seems to prove that there was an explosion of board. Meanwhile the UK on Wednesday suspended flights from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt after saying that the Russian jet “may well” have been destroyed by an “explosive device.” 

That seemed to indicate that Western governments were set to “confirm” ISIS’ contention that a bomb is to blame for the crash. 

Now, Western media are reporting that according to US “intelligence”, an ISIS bomb was indeed the cause of the catastrophe that claimed the lives of 224 people last Saturday. Here’s Reuters:

Evidence now suggests that a bomb planted by the Islamic State militant group is the likely cause of last weekend's crash of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai peninsula, U.S. and European security sources said on Wednesday.


Islamic State, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria and is battling the Egyptian army in the Sinai Peninsula, said again on Wednesday it brought down the airplane, adding it would eventually tell the world how it carried out the attack.


The Airbus A321M crashed on Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula shortly after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to the Russian city of St Petersburg, killing all 224 people on board.


The U.S. and European security sources stressed they had reached no final conclusions about the crash.

And here's more from NBC:

There's significant evidence that a bomb brought down Russia's Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai Peninsula last weekend, U.S. officials told NBC News on Wednesday, saying U.S. investigators are focusing on ISIS operatives or sympathizers as the likely bombers.

Questions have swirled over whether foul play or terrorism may have downed the Metrojet-operated Airbus A321 since it crashed in Egypt on Saturday, killing all 224 people aboard. ISIS's media office in Sinai released an audio message Wednesday reiterating its claim of responsibility. Neither Wednesday's claim nor an earlier one immediately after the crash said how ISIS is supposed to have brought down the plane.

U.S. officials stressed that while they believe it's "likely" that a bomb was on the plane, it's still too early to conclude that for certain. They told NBC News that mechanical failure remains a possibility.

A U.S. official said investigators are looking at the possibility that an explosive device was planted aboard the plane by ground crews, baggage handlers or other ground staff at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport before takeoff. Passengers and the flight crew weren't significantly suspected after intelligence scrub of the passenger manifest and the crew showed no one with suspected ties to any terrorist group, officials said.

Three top officials at the airport, including the head of security, were fired Wednesday after investigators uncovered numerous lax security procedures, officials told NBC News.

So apparently, US officials have more evidence about what happened to this plane than either the Russians or the Egyptians do and Washington is now confident enough to say that ISIS is "likely" responsible. 

Needless to say, there are any number of questions that should be asked here, but at least NBC gets one thing right: 

A U.S. official told NBC News he expects Russia to retaliate "heavily and militarily" if the theory is borne out.