In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Tuesday, Russian Tu-22 bombers escorted by the Su-27s fighter jets drop bombs on a target in Syria.

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Tuesday, Russian Tu-22 bombers escorted by the Su-27s fighter jets drop bombs on a target in Syria.

Putin vows to hunt down, punish those who bombed Russian jet

MOSCOW — A somber President Vladimir Putin vowed to hunt down and punish those responsible for a bomb that brought down a Russian passenger jet last month, “wherever they are hiding.” Intensified Russian airstrikes Tuesday hit the Islamic State group’s stronghold in Syria that also is being pounded by the French military.

Russia’s FSB security service confirmed for the first time that a homemade bomb caused the Oct. 31 crash of the Metrojet Airbus 321-200 in Egypt’s Sinai Desert and killed all 224 people aboard in what it called “a terrorist act.” The Islamic state had already claimed responsibility, saying it was punishing Moscow for its air campaign in Syria.

An unusually subdued Putin called it “one of the bloodiest crimes,” and promised retribution for “the murder of our people in Sinai.”

“We will not wipe away the tears from our souls and our hearts. This will stay with us forever,” he said.

The FSB offered a $50 million reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible, and Putin said Russia would be relentless in its pursuit.

“We’re going to look for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any place on Earth and punish them,” he said.

FSB head Alexander Bortnikov said a bomb containing the equivalent of 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of TNT went off aboard the Airbus, causing it to break apart in the air, which explains why the fuselage was scattered over such a large territory. I can certainly say that this was “a terrorist act,” Bortnikov said.

He said tests showed the explosives had been produced outside of Russia, but gave no other details.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said his government was informed only on Tuesday of the results of the Russian investigation, and he shied away from endorsing its conclusion that a bomb was to blame. Speaking in Sharm el-Sheikh following a Cabinet meeting there, Ismail said Egypt would “bear in mind” the Russian conclusion.

Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal, meanwhile, sought to cast doubt on the Russian declaration, saying the technical investigation into the crash by experts from Egypt, Russia, France and Ireland had not concluded.

Egyptian authorities opened an investigation into a possible security breach or infiltration by militants of the Sharm el-Sheikh airport staff, security officials said. The investigation has focused on baggage handlers, their security supervisors and also personnel involved in aircraft catering, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Egypt is concerned about the impact on its tourism industry. Sharm el-Sheikh was particularly popular with Russian tourists, who in 2014 accounted for nearly a third of the nearly 10 million visitors to Egypt.

Russia has suspended all flights to Egypt. Russia also has banned Egypt’s national carrier from flying to Russia.

Seeking to reassure travelers, Egyptian Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar said security measures at airports had been stepped up nationwide.

Putin’s meeting at the Kremlin was held immediately upon his return from Monday’s summit with President Barack Obama and other world leaders in Turkey, where they vowed to work together to combat the Islamic State group following Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed 129 people. IS has claimed responsibility for those bombings and shootings.

Putin ordered the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, currently in the Mediterranean, to start cooperating with the French military “as allies” on operations in Syria. He said a French aircraft carrier task force was to approach the Moskva soon.

The plane crash and the Paris attacks clearly have raised Russia’s determination to fight IS, although Western concerns remain that its airstrikes also are hitting rebels who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad but are not affiliated with radical groups.

Putin said that Russia’s air campaign in Syria “should not only be continued but should be intensified so that the criminals realize that retribution is inevitable.”

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian bombers hit positions in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, as well as in Deir al-Zour.

Russian warplanes fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria’s Idlib and Aleppo provinces, Shoigu said. The Islamic State group has positions in Aleppo province, while the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front is in Idlib province.

The cruise missiles that hit the Aleppo and Idlib positions were fired from supersonic Tu-160 bombers and from Tu-95s, long-distance turboprop strategic bombers that started from Russian territory, he added.

France’s airstrikes Tuesday in Raqqa destroyed a command post and training camp, said French military spokesman Col. Gilles Jaron. Later, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said there were new raids in the evening by 10 fighter jets. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle will depart Toulon on Thursday for the region.

French President Francois Hollande, who stayed away from the G-20 summit because of the Paris attacks, said he would travel to Moscow next week to help forge a military coalition against the Islamic State group.

France also made an unprecedented demand that its European Union allies support its military action against IS. It invoked a never-used article of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty obliging members of the 28-nation bloc to give “aid and assistance by all the means in their power” to a member country that is “the victim of armed aggression on its territory.”

Le Drian said all EU partners responded positively, and they could help “either by taking part in France’s operations in Syria or Iraq, or by easing the load or providing support for France in other operations.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked by reporters if Putin’s order about the Moskva cooperating with the French meant there was a de facto coalition on Syria involving Moscow and Paris. He replied: “For now, it’s premature to say this.”

Putin said Russia is “relying on all of our friends.”

“We will act in accordance with the U.N. Charter’s Article 51, which gives each country the right to self-defense. Everyone who tries to aid the criminals should understand that they will be responsible for giving them shelter,” he said.

An image posted on the Facebook page of Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova apparently sought to show solidarity between Russia and France. Similar to the popular meme of the Eiffel Tower inside a circle forming a peace symbol on the French tricolor, the image on Zakharova’s page shows a jet plane in a circle superimposed on the white, blue and red of the Russian flag.

___

Associated Press writers Nataliya Vasilyeva and Jim Heintz in Moscow, Thomas Adamson in Paris and Hamza Hendawi in Cairo contributed to this story.

___

A previous version of this story has been corrected to show that the spelling of the Egyptian city is Sharm el-Sheikh, not Sharm al-Sheikh.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

Mountain reflections are seen from the Mendenhall Wetlands. (Courtesy Photo / Denise Carroll)
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Superb reader-submitted photos of wildlife, scenery and/or plant life.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn’t necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city.
City funds wage increase amid worker shortage

City Manager says raise doesn’t fix nearly two decade-long issue of employee retainment

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Dec. 3

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Molly Yazwinski holds a 3,000-year-old moose skull with antlers still attached, found in a river on Alaska’s North Slope. Her aunt, Pam Groves, steadies an inflatable canoe. (Courtesy Photo /Dan Mann)

 

2. A 14,000-year-old fragment of a moose antler, top left, rests on a sand bar of a northern river next to the bones of ice-age horses, caribou and muskoxen, as well as the horns of a steppe bison. Photo by Pam Groves.

 

3. Moose such as this one, photographed this year near Whitehorse in the Yukon, may have been present in Alaska as long as people have. Photo by Ned Rozell.
Alaska Science Forum: Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

When a great deal of Earth’s water was locked up within mountains… Continue reading

FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1.  (AP Photo / Danny Karnik)
Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

President vows to quickly sign the bill.

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
Juneau state Sen. Jesse Kiehl, left, gives a legislative proclamation to former longtime Juneau Assembly member Loren Jones, following Kiehl’s speech at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce’s weekly luncheon Thursday at the Juneau Moose Family Center.
Cloudy economy, but sunnier political outlook lie ahead for lawmakers, Kiehl says

Juneau’s state senator tells Chamber of Commerce bipartisan majority a key to meaningful action

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Friday, Dec. 2

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Hunter credits community members for Thanksgiving rescue

KENAI — On Thanksgiving, Alaska Wildlife Troopers released a dispatch about a… Continue reading

Most Read