The Islamic State Says It Used This Bomb to Down a Russian Airliner
The image shows a can of Schweppes Gold and what appears to be a detonator and a switch on a blue background.
This post was updated on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 11:30 a.m. to reflect recent developments.
The Islamic State claims that it brought down the Russian airliner last month over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula with an improvised explosive device made from a soda can.
The image appeared in the latest issue of the militant group’s magazine, Dabiq, and shows a can of Schweppes Gold and what appears to be a detonator and a switch for an improvised bomb.
It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the photo.
In the magazine, the Islamic State said it had initially planned to target a plane belonging to a country participating in the U.S.-led coalition, but decided to change course after Moscow began airstrikes in Syria.
“The divided Crusaders of the East and West thought themselves safe in their jets as they cowardly bombarded the Muslims of the Caliphate,” Dabiq said. “So revenge was exacted upon those who felt safe in the cockpits.”
The magazine added that the group had exploited an unspecified loophole at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport in Egypt, where the Russian aircraft originated, in order to smuggle a bomb on board.
The group’s claims have not been verified, but the improvised bomb fits with the details of the investigation released by Russian authorities.
In remarks to Russia’s Security Council on Monday and broadcast on Russian television Tuesday morning, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, said investigators estimated that the bomb that brought down Metrojet Flight 9268 on Oct. 31, killing all 224 people aboard, was made of roughly 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of TNT explosive.
An improvised explosive device detonated not too long after the plane took off, Bortnikov said during the address, adding that “the plane disintegrated in midair, which explains the widely scattered fuselage pieces.”
“We can say definitely that this was a terrorist act,” Bortnikov said.
Russian daily Kommersant reported on Wednesday that the explosive that brought down the plane was placed in the rear of the aircraft’s cabin, not in the cargo compartment.
The Kremlin had initially resisted the theory that the plane fell victim to terrorism, but on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible and intensify airstrikes against the militants in Syria.
“We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them,” Putin said of the plane bombers.
Shortly after his comments, Putin made good on his promise as Moscow bombed Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, using both sea-launched cruise missiles and long-range bombers.
Two airport employees from Sharm el-Sheikh airport were detained on Monday on suspicion of helping terrorists plant a bomb on board the Russian plane, according to Reuters.
Days after the crash, Western governments, including the United States, said the plane was likely brought down by a bomb, but Cairo says it still has not found evidence of that. Instead, the Egyptian government called on all parties to await the official results of an investigation currently underway by an Egyptian-led team.
Immediately after news broke of the downed plane, the Islamic State’s Egyptian branch claimed responsibility for the bombing in video and audio messages posted on the Internet. The photo in Dabiq is the latest ownership of the terrorist attack by the group.
Photo credit: Dabiq
Reid Standish is an Alfa fellow and Foreign Policy’s special correspondent covering Russia and Eurasia. He was formerly an associate editor. Twitter: @reidstan
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