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Bomb planted on board may have downed Russian jet

BEIJING, (Xinhua) — A Lockerbie-style bomb planted onboard may have caused the crash of the Russian passenger plane in the Sinai desert, Russia’s Sputnik News Agency reported on Thursday.

“Most likely something loaded into the aircraft did this,” Ted Postol, an MIT physicist and missile expert, told Sputnik on Tuesday. “The Lockerbie and UTA precedents are relevant.”

On Dec. 21, 1988, 259 people were killed on board Pan Am Flight 103 when a bomb inside the airplane exploded while the aircraft flew over the Scottish village of Lockerbie after reaching its cruising altitude of 9,400 meters.

On Sept. 19, 1989, UTA Flight 772 was destroyed by a bomb explosion over the Sahara Desert and all 170 people on board the airplane were killed.

The Russian news agency also quoted former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman, an expert on Middle East terrorism, as saying “it seems significant that there was no mention of the detection of a missile being fired.”

“That seems to strengthen the conjecture that something placed aboard the aircraft exploded. That was what brought down both UTA 772 and Pan Am 103,” Freeman said.

On the other hand, the latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash of the Metrojet Airbus A321-200 in Egypt was most likely caused by a bomb planted by the terror group Islamic State (IS) or its affiliate, U.S. cable news network CNN reported Wednesday.

A U.S. official was quoted by CNN as saying: “There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane.”

But the official added that there has not been a formal conclusion reached by the U.S. intelligence community on the cause of the crash.

The evidence of the heat flash detected by the U.S. surveillance satellite strengthened that a bomb smuggled onboard the airliner was responsible, Freeman noted.

“This shows that a satellite detected a mid-air explosion. That means this was almost certainly not an equipment failure,” he added.

Britain also confirmed the possibility that a bomb may have brought down the Russian jet and halted flights to and from Egypt’s Sharm Sheikh airport on Wednesday.

“We have concluded that there is a significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Wednesday.

However, Britain made no mention of any group that may have been responsible.

It is expected that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will visit Britain this week. Egyptian government spokesman Hossam Qawish said earlier all evidence pointed out at a technical cause of the crash.

The IS claimed responsibility for the crash on Saturday. The Sinai-based group “Sinai State” that had announced loyalty to the IS said in a statement posted on Twitter that its militants managed to target the Russian plane and killed all its passengers.

It said the attack was in revenge for Russia’s military operations in Syria.

The Russian airliner crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday while heading from Sharm Sheikh airport to St. Petersburg. All 224 people on board, mostly Russian tourists, were killed.

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