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Islamic State Claims to have Shot Down Russian Airliner over the Sinai

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The Kogalymavia airliner did not send an SOS call before it suddenly “disappeared off the radar.” A Russian passenger airliner crashed early Saturday in the Sinai Peninsula en route from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg.

A top Russian investigative committee has begun a criminal investigation into the crash.

The Islamic State took responsibility for the downing.

Russia, however, has said the claim “can’t be considered accurate.”

The Islamic State and other jihadi groups have vowed to retaliate against Russia for its airstrikes in Syria and its defense of Bashar al-Assad.

The Islamic State in the Sinai

Following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and “unprecedented clashes” in the lawless Sinai, elements of the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis group claimed allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State.

The group is made up largely of Bedouins, Egyptians and foreign jihadists. It has declared the Egyptian army and police to be apostates that can be killed.

Ansar Bait al-Maqdis has bombed pipelines that carry gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan numerous times, has attacked police and military intelligence facilities, has taken responsibility for car bombings in Cairo and has reportedly carried out attacks inside Israel.

A large number of attacks have occurred in and around Hasna where the Russian airliner went down.

The group is thought to have missile technology. In January 2014 a rocket was launched from the Sinai to Eilat, Israel. It was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis took responsibility for the launch.

The same month Ansar Bait al-Maqdis claimed it had shot down a military helicopter in the Sinai.

It also claimed to have launched three Grad rockets from the Sinai into southern Israel near the Gaza Strip.

The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy says “the group is known to be the strongest and best coordinated in Egypt, and it is in possession of advanced weaponry, including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), rocket-propelled grenades, Grad rockets, and mortars.”

MANPADS, however, are not capable of downing aircraft at 30,000 feet.

In June, 2014 it was reported that ISIS acquired Stinger missiles from army bases they had taken over in Iraq. The Stinger missile is a low-altitude missile capable of reaching aircraft at 10,000 feet.

On July 17, 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, reportedly with a medium-range surface-to-air Buk missile. Advanced variants of the Russian Buk have a range of 30 miles and can reach an altitude of nearly 80,000 feet.


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