Using Israeli Intel, U.S. Investigators All but Certain Bomb Downed Russian Airliner

Communications in Sinai intercepted by Israeli intelligence were passed to U.S. and Britain, U.S. official tells CNN.

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A Russian Emergency Minister Vladimir Puchkov (L) and Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov (4thR) visiting the crash site of a A321 Russian airliner in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, November 1, 2015.Credit: AFP

The United States' near-certainty that an on-board bomb blew up a Russian airliner over Sinai recently is based in part on Israeli intelligence, CNN reported Sunday. 

Communications in the Sinai intercepted by Israeli intelligence were passed to the United States and Britain, according to a U.S. official briefed on the intercepts and a diplomatic source. Israeli officials declined to comment on the report.

One U.S. official told CNN it was "99.9 percent certain" that a bomb exploded on Metrojet Flight 9268, which came apart in the Sinai sky on October 31, killing all 224 people on board. Another source told CNN it was "likely" that a bomb was to blame for the tragedy.

Investigators of the Russian plane crash in Egypt are "90 percent sure" the noise heard in the final second of a cockpit recording was an explosion caused by a bomb, a member of the investigation team told Reuters on Sunday.

The plane crashed 23 minutes after taking off from the Sharm al-Sheikh tourist resort eight days ago, killing all 224 passengers and crew. Islamic State militants fighting Egyptian security forces in Sinai said they brought it down.

"The indications and analysis so far of the sound on the black box indicate it was a bomb," said the Egyptian investigation team member, who asked not to be named. "We are 90 percent sure it was a bomb."

His comments reflect a higher degree of certainty about the cause of the crash than the investigation committee has so far declared in public.

Lead investigator Ayman al-Muqaddam announced on Saturday that the plane appeared to have broken up in mid-air while it was being flown on auto-pilot, and that a noise had been heard in the last second of the cockpit recording. But he said it was too soon to draw conclusions about why the plane crashed.

Confirmation that militants brought down the airliner could have a devastating impact on Egypt's lucrative tourist industry, which has suffered from years of political turmoil and was hit last week when Russia, Turkey and several European countries suspended flights to Sharm al-Sheikh and other destinations.

It could also mark a new strategy by the hardline Islamic State group which holds large parts of Syria and Iraq.