Lawmakers support terrorism claim on Russian flight

Lawmakers support terrorism claim on Russian flight
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Lawmakers appear convinced that the crash of a Russian airplane last week was due to a bomb planted by Islamic extremists, many said on Thursday, following initial intelligence assessments out of the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Though lawmakers insist that intelligence evaluations are still early, few cast doubt on reports that radicals linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were responsible for bombing the plane and killing all 224 people onboard.

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“The hard evidence is not there, but we do now that ISIS took credit for the attack and, on the basis of them announcing that they did it and on the basis of their past attempts at these types of bombings, I think it’s only logical that we conclude that they’re carrying out this kind of a terror campaign,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) told reporters.

“We’ve allowed them the time to recruit bombers, and to work on this and to take the battle — take the war — to civilian populations around the world,” he added, throwing a dig at the Obama administration’s foreign policy. “I suspect this is the latest example of that.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a hawkish lawmaker who sits on the Intelligence Committee, similarly agreed.

“I would say right now that the consensus is that it was an explosive device and there’s reason to believe it was ISIS or an affiliate of ISIS,” King said.

Intelligence officials have repeatedly declined to publicly confirm reports that their preliminary findings blame the crash of Metrojet Flight 9268 on terrorism, likely linked to ISIS.

The Islamic extremist organization first took credit for attacking the Russian airplane shortly after the Saturday crash in Sinai, and then again renewed its claim on Wednesday, following new reports alleging its involvement. Officials in Egypt and Russia have dismissed its claims.

The White House on Thursday declined to rule out the option.

“We cannot rule anything out, including the possibility of terrorist involvement,” White House press secretary Earnest told reporters during the daily briefing.

The United Kingdom has been more openly speculating about the likelihood that the Airbus A321 was taken down by a bomb.

Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron said that terrorism was “more likely than not” the reason the plane came apart before tumbling into the Egyptian desert last weekend.

The Russian airliner has ruled out technical failure or human error as the cause of the crash, leading many to suspect terrorism.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffUS finds itself isolated in Iran conflict House Intelligence Committee to subpoena Trump associate Felix Sater Schiff introduces bill to strengthen law barring campaigns from accepting foreign dirt MORE (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on MSNBC that “a structural failure in the aircraft” might be to blame.  

“The intelligence community is not yet at the point where it can confirm either hypothesis,” he cautioned.

Still, key Republican lawmakers were less willing to be as measured.

“Where all indicators seem to be pointing is that this was an ISIS attack with an explosive device in the airplane,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the same cable TV program. 

“I do know that planes, generally speaking, do not break up at 30,000 feet,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainVeterans group to hand out USS John McCain T-shirts for July 4 on the National Mall Will we ever have another veteran as president? Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R-Ariz.) told reporters off the Senate floor on Thursday.

The technical infeasibility of using a rocket to shoot down the jet have turned some attention to the possibility that a bomb was planted onboard before the jet took off from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“The only thing that we know for a fact is that it was not shot down by a missile,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrGOP senators divided over approach to election security GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill. “And that there was a catastrophic event yet to be determined.”

A bomb is a possibility, Burr acknowledged, “but you’ll never conclude that until you finish the forensics of the crash site.”

According to reports, the initial determination blaming the incident on a bomb came not from physical evidence but because of intercepted communications separate from ISIS’s claims of responsibility.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that if there was a bomb that it was ISIS,” McCain said.