Neil MacFarquharnov, New York Times, November 17, 2015
Russia on Tuesday said that it was coordinating with the French military in sharply ratcheting up attacks on Syrian territory, especially areas held by the Islamic State, as the government for the first time acknowledged that a bomb had destroyed a Russian charter jet that crashed more than two weeks ago in Egypt.
In a related move, President Obama said early Wednesday that he was open to cooperating with Russia in the campaign against the Islamic State, which has asserted responsibility for destroying the charter plane and for the deadly attacks in Paris on Friday, but only if the government of President Vladimir V. Putin begins targeting the militant group.
The timing of the Kremlin’s announcement on Tuesday, after France had already begun striking Islamic State targets and had called for a united front against the group, suggested that Russia was using the moment to help repair frayed relations with the West.
Alexander V. Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, said investigators estimated that the bomb that brought down the Metrojet Airbus A321, killing all 224 people aboard, was made of up to 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of TNT. He added that “foreign made” explosive material had been found in the wreckage.
In remarks to Russia’s Security Council on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday morning, he said that “we can say definitely that this was a terrorist act.”
An “improvised explosive device” detonated soon after the plane took off, Mr. Bortnikov said, adding that “the plane disintegrated in midair, which explains the widely scattered fuselage pieces.”
The plane crashed minutes after departing Sharm el Sheikh, a Red Sea resort now reeling from a loss of the tourism. Russia’s confirmation that the plane was felled by a bomb–presumably smuggled through the Sharm el Sheikh airport–could further weaken Egypt’s vital tourism industry, and undermines government claims of progress in vanquishing militants based in Sinai.