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LIVE UPDATES: Russia confirms bomb downed its plane over Egypt; Cairo yet to comment

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LIVE UPDATES: Russia confirms bomb downed its plane over Egypt; Cairo yet to comment

Russian security service says it found traces of 1 kilogram bomb caused crash of Airbus A321 over Sinai, offers reward of $50 million for information on those behind attack; President Putin vows retribution

Ahram Online, Tuesday 17 Nov 2015

A military investigator from Russia stands near the debris of a Russian airliner at its crash site at the Hassana area in Arish city, north Egypt, November 1, 2015 (Reuters)

14:35 Reuters reported that, "one of the security officials said CCTV footage showed a baggage handler carrying a suitcase from an airport building to another man, who was loading luggage onto the doomed airliner from beneath the plane on the runway."

Reuters added that other sources at the Sharm airport said security forces were searching for two employees who are suspected of leaving a baggage-scanning machine unattended for a period of time while passengers were boarding the doomed Russian plane.

Egypt has denied any arrests of Sharm El-Sheikh Airport personnel. Russia also said that they have not received any information of arrests at the airport.

14:20 The Egyptian cabinet headed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is currently discussing Tuesday’s announcement by Russia, MENA reported.

Since the Russian plane crash on 31 October, the cabinet has been holding all of its weekly meetings in Sharm El-Sheikh to reassure tourists of the resort’s safety.

The cabinet is also discussing means of revitalising domestic and foreign tourist traffic to the Red Sea city. Over 72,000 Russian tourists have been airlifted from Egyptian resorts in the aftermath of the plane crash, the Russian Tourism Agency was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram Arabic website on Tuesday.

13:30 Former Aviation Minister Wael El-Maadawy tells privately owned channel CBC Extra that it is unclear whether announcements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the plane crash came following a consultation with Egypt. "All [that we know so far] is the work of intelligence. There was no official statement from the official body [which is led by Egypt] investigating the cause of the crash," he says.

El-Maadawy added that concerned countries should provide Egypt with any information they gather on the causes of the crash. "I believe that Egypt should send an official complaint to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), as no information from any country has been given to Egypt concerning this incident, which could put the lives of many people in danger."

On the possibility of a bomb causing the crash, El-Maadawy said that any country, even one as militarily advanced as France, could be infiltrated. "This is due to a huge development in the ability of militant groups to infiltrate any system in any country," he says.

13:15 Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russian authorities have not received any reports of arrests of Sharm airport employees, Russian news agency Sputnik reports. Earlier in the day, the Egyptian Ministry of Interior had denied media reports claiming the arrest of Sharm El-Sheikh Airport staffers in connection with the crash.

12:50 Egypt’s cabinet will issue a statement soon, according to various media reports.

12:42 The spokesperson for Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Ahram Online that he has no information about the Russian announcement, adding that the Ministry of Civil Aviation in Egypt was the party in charge of the investigation. Ahram Online couldn't immediately reach a representative from the latter ministry for a comment.

12:15 Egypt’s interior ministry denied on Tuesday media reports that two Sharm El-Sheikh Airport staff members were arrested in connection with the crash of a Russian passenger airliner over Egypt’s Sinai, state news agency MENA reported.

12:00 The Russian Federal Security Service director offered a reward of $50 million for information on those behind the terror attack on the A321, RT reported.

11:45 Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm El-Sheikh Airport in connection with the downing of a Russian jet on Oct. 31, killing all 224 people on board, two security officials told Reuters. "Seventeen people are being held, two of them are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane at Sharm El-Sheikh airport," one of the officials said.

11:00 Russia's President Vladimir Putin vowed to find and punish the attackers who brought down a plane with 224 people on board in Sinai last month, in remarks released by the Kremlin Tuesday.

"We will search for them anywhere they might hide. We will find them in any part of the world and punish them," Putin told FSB security chief Alexander Bortnikov late Monday, calling the attack "one of the bloodiest crimes".
-----

(Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Tuesday that a bomb had ripped apart a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month and promised to hunt down those responsible and intensify its air strikes on Islamist militants in Syria in response.

Egypt has opened an investigation into the causes of the crash, and allowed Russia to take part in the probe. No official and final report by Egypt has been issued yet.

Until Tuesday, Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash, in which 224 people were killed on Oct. 31, was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.

But in a late night Kremlin meeting on Monday three days after Islamist gunmen and bombers killed 129 people in Paris, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's FSB security service, told a meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers' personal belongings.

"According to an analysis by our specialists, a homemade bomb containing up to 1 kilogram of TNT detonated during the flight, causing the plane to break up in mid air, which explains why parts of the fuselage were spread over such a large distance," said Bortnikov.

"We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act," Bortnikov said in footage that was not released until Tuesday morning.

Putin responded by saying the incident was one of the bloodiest acts in modern Russian history and ordered the Russian air force to intensify its air strikes in Syria in response.

"It (our campaign) must be intensified in such a way that the criminals understand that retribution is inevitable," said Putin.

Ordering the country's secret service to hunt down those responsible for blowing up the plane, he said the effort to bring them to justice should be exhaustive.

"We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them," Putin said. 

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