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British Prime Minister Says Russian Plane 'More Likely Than Not' Was Downed By Bomb

A Russian national flag flies at half staff at Dvortsovaya Square in St.Petersburg, Russia, on Monday.
Ivan Sekretarev
A Russian national flag flies at half staff at Dvortsovaya Square in St.Petersburg, Russia, on Monday.

In an interview with Sky News, British Prime Minister David Cameron said a Russian airliner was "more likely than not" downed by a bomb.

Cameron also told the network that there was a "significant possibility" that the Islamic State was responsible.

On the BBC, Cameron said: "We cannot be certain that the Russian airliner was brought down by a terrorist bomb, but it looks increasingly likely that that was case."

Of course, this comes just after British authorities suspended flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, citing security concerns.

As we've reported, Metrojet Flight 9268 broke up midair over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.

The Washington Post reportsthat Egypt and Russia called the British suggestion mere "speculation." The Post adds:

"Egypt's civil aviation ministry said in a statement Thursday that the British theory of a bomb having been smuggled aboard the plane 'is not based on facts,' and that all of the country's airports apply international security standards.

"'The investigation team does not have any evidence or data confirming this hypothesis,' Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said, according to the statement."

On the record, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the U.S. can't rule out the possibility that the crash was brought down by terrorists.

CNN spoke to several unnamed U.S. officials who said they believe the plane was likely downed by a bomb planted by the Islamic State or associates. The network reports:

"The signs pointing to ISIS [or the Islamic State], another U.S. official said, are partially based on monitoring of internal messages of the terrorist group. Those messages are separate from public ISIS claims of responsibility, that official said.

"In an audio message from ISIS' Sinai branch that was posted on terror-related social media accounts Wednesday, the organization adamantly insisted that it brought down the flight.

"'Find your black boxes and analyze them, give us the results of your investigation and the depth of your expertise and prove we didn't do it or how it was downed,' the message said. 'Die with your rage. We are the ones with God's blessing who brought it down. And God willing, one day we will reveal how, at the time we desire.'"

Update at 1:49 p.m. ET. A Simple Swipe:

Citing a Pentagon source, NPR's Tom Bowman reports the source says British authorities "may have gone out on a limb" by saying the airliner was more than likely brought down by a bomb.

According to Tom's source, in the end this should be very easy to figure out.

"The official says the key is getting someone on the ground to swipe the wreckage for any residue of explosives," Tom tells us. "It's not brain surgery and they should have that by now."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.