Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says the Russian plane that crashed in Sinai in late October was downed by terrorists seeking to harm Egypt's tourism industry and ties with Moscow.
“Has terrorism ended? No... Whoever downed that plane, what did he want? Just to hit tourism? No. To hit relations. To hit relations with Russia,” Sisi said in a televised speech on Wednesday -- the first such official indication from Cairo about the crash.
The acknowledgement was made while the Egyptian president had previously dismissed a claim by the Daesh terrorists as “propaganda” that the Takfiri group was behind the downing of the plane.
On October 31, an Airbus A321, run by Russia’s Kogalymavia airline, crashed in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing all the 224 people on board, who were mostly Russians.
On November 17, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) said the plane was brought down by a bomb, confirming speculations that the crash had been a terrorist act.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, endorsing the FSB’s investigation, vowed to punish the perpetrators of the attack. “We will search for them anywhere they might hide. We will find them in any part of the world and punish them,” he said at the time.
The incident drew criticism about Egypt’s airport security and hit its tourism sector, with a number of European airlines suspending flights to and from the North African country.
Egypt’s tourism had already declined significantly since 2011, when a nationwide uprising led to the ouster of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak. According to media reports, Egyptian resorts until then had hosted up to 15 million tourists per year, as opposed to 9.9 million visitors recorded in 2014.
Egypt has been witnessing deadly attacks carried out by Daesh-linked militants in the Sinai Peninsula since the ouster of its first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013.