Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (4rth R) at the remines of a plane crash at the desert in central Sinai near El Arish city north of Egypt, October 31, 2015.
(photo credit: (AICF/CHRIS LEE))
MOSCOW - Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, said on Thursday Russia had identified groups behind the explosion of a Russian plane in Egypt, which killed all 224 passengers on board in October, local news agencies reported.
In November, Bortnikov 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.
Until the November meeting at the Kremlin Russia had played down assertions from Western countries that the crash was a terrorist incident, saying it was important to let the official investigation run its course.
"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," Bortnikov said at the time.
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.
Russian airliner with 224 aboard crashes in Egypt's Sinai
"We will search for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them," Putin said.
"We can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act," he added.
Immediately following the crash, a terrorist group affiliated with Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility
for the downing of the plane that crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.