Russia mulls possible bomb attack behind airliner crash

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MOSCOW,  (Xinhua) — Russia is considering the possibility of a terrorist attack behind the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt as new evidence has emerged.

“The likelihood of a terrorist act as a reason behind what has happened remains, of course,” Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the official daily Rossiyskaya Gazette in an interview to be published on Wednesday, excerpts of which have been posted on the government website Tuesday.

The Russian Metrojet Airbus A321 plane, en route to Russia’s second-largest city St. Petersburg, crashed on Oct. 31 shortly after takeoff from Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all the 224 passengers and crew members, mostly Russians, on board.

President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered the suspension of all of the country’s scheduled flights to Egypt amid rising speculations that terrorist attacks were possibly behind the disaster.

Prior to the order, Putin held a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron over the crash. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted Monday that London had handed over to Moscow some intelligence related to the accident, but declined to disclose details.

Reports in Western media have bolstered the theory that the airplane was brought down by a bomb planted onboard by terrorists in retaliation for Russia’s ongoing military operation against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.

On Tuesday, U.S. TV network CBC News cited U.S. intelligence sources as saying that the United States had intercepted communication from IS operatives claiming that they had “an insider at the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh.”

Some Russian analysts also believe that the accident was the result of a terrorist attack.

“We have no doubt that it was a terrorist attack. The question is what kind of explosive device has been used, and how it was brought on board,” Yevgeny Satanovsky, president of the Russian Institute for Middle East Studies, told Xinhua.

Leonid Reshetnikov, director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, believed that Russia would heighten its air campaign against terrorist groups in Syria if it is proved that there was a terrorist attack behind the crash.

“The possibility of terrorist acts has been taken into account during the planning and carrying-out of Russia’s operation in Syria,” Reshetnikov told Xinhua. “The main thing is not to give in to pressure, or to any acts of terrorists.”

Reshetnikov noted the necessity of intelligence exchange between Russia and the West.

“There are many serious and responsible people in the West, who understand that the issue now is not just how to hurt Russia, but that there is a real need to fight terrorists who threaten not only Russia, but the international community as a whole,” Reshetnikov said.

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