Russia confirms bomb brought down Egypt plane, vows revenge
President Vladimir Putin vowed vengeance as Moscow on Tuesday confirmed that a bomb attack brought down a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board.
Putin pledged to ramp up Moscow's bombing campaign in Syria in response to the attack but stopped short of blaming any one group as the country's security agency announced a $50 million (47 million-euro) reward for information leading to capture of those responsible.
"It is not the first time that Russia confronts barbarous terrorist crimes", Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a meeting with his security chiefs.
"The murder of our people in Sinai is among the bloodiest crimes in terms of victims. We will not wipe away the tears from our soul and hearts. This will stay with us forever but will not stop us finding and punishing the criminals," he said in comments released Tuesday.
"We will search for them anywhere they might hide. We will find them in any part of the world and punish them," he said.
The confirmation of the attack - the deadliest against a Russian target since the Beslan school massacre by Islamist rebels from the North Caucasus in 2004 - comes days after a chain of attacks claimed by the Islamic State group killed at least 129 people in Paris.
Russia's security chief Alexander Bortnikov told Putin that the passenger jet carrying tourists back from Egyptian resort Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31 was brought down shortly after take-off over Sinai peninsula by a home-made bomb containing explosives of "foreign production" with a force equivalent to one kilo of TNT.
"According to our experts, a homemade explosive device equivalent to 1 kilogram of TNT went off onboard, which caused the plane to break up in the air, which explains why the fuselage was scattered over such a large territory," Bortnikov said.
"We can say unequivocally that this was a terrorist attack," Federal Security Service [FSB] head Bortnikov added.
The FSB later said it would pay "$50 million for information helping to arrest the criminals."
Russia steps up anti-IS strikes
Putin has quickly followed up on his pledge, with Russia staging airstrikes on the IS stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, according to a senior French government source.
"At this moment, the Russians are in the process of strongly hitting the city of Raqqa, which is proof that they too are becoming conscious (of the threat from IS)," the source said.
IS has claimed responsibility for bringing the Russian plane down in written statements, as well as video and audio messages posted on the Internet following the crash.
It said the attack was retaliation for Russia's air campaign against IS - and other groups - in Syria, where Moscow wants to preserve the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The group warned Putin that they would also target him "at home" but did not offer any details to back its claim.
While releasing specifics would add credibility, the group may be withholding either because its claim is false, or because doing so would undermine plans for similar attacks in the future - or because the aura of mystery might deepen its mystique among die-hard followers.
Egyptian security sources had claimed earlier investigations suggested the plane crashed due to a technical fault.
Reports emerged Tuesday that Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport in connection with the downing of the Russian jet, according to security officials quoted by Reuters. However, the Egyptian Interior Ministry has since denied these reports.