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Russian plane crash caused by IS planted bomb: US intelligence

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Washington: The latest US intelligence suggests that the crash of a Russian passenger plane in Egypt was most likely caused by a bomb planted by the terror group Islamic State (IS) or its affiliate, CNN reported on Wednesday.

A US official quoted by CNN said: “There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane.”

The assessment was reached by looking back at intelligence reports that had been gathered before and after Saturday’s crash of the Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt’s Sinai that killed all 224 people aboard, CNN quoted the official as saying.

But the official added that there has not been a formal conclusion reached by the US intelligence community on the cause of the crash.

The plane, which was heading to St. Petersburg, Russia, crashed about 23 minutes after taking off from the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. Most of the passengers were Russian citizens.

There “had been additional activity in Sinai that had caught our attention,” the US official said.

The intelligence regarding the IS is in part based on monitoring of internal messages of the terrorist group, another US official said.

Those messages are separate from public IS claims of responsibility, that official said.

Sinai Province, a militant Egyptian group affiliated with the IS, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s downing of the Russian plane through a statement. The group has been active in Sinai fighting with Egyptian security forces.

But the claim has not been verified by Egyptian and Russian officials.

US intelligence officials told the media on Monday that infrared US satellite detected a heat flash at the same time and vicinity over the Sinai peninsula where the plane crashed, suggesting a mid-air explosion.

(IANS)

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US Backtracks on Iraqi, Kurd Cease-fire Claim

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An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri
An Iraqi soldier removes a Kurdish flag from Altun Kupri on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq. VOA

Iraq, October 27: The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State announced Friday morning a cease-fire between Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in Northern Iraq but quickly backtracked on the claim, saying it is not an “official” cease-fire.

Army spokesman Ryan Dillon posted a clarification on Twitter to say “both parties (are) talking with one another,” but that a “cease-fire” had not been reached.

The Iraqi military and the Kurdish minority have been clashing for several weeks after the Iraqi troops moved to secure areas in northern Iraq that had been seized from IS jihadists by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces abandoned the land largely without resistance, though low-level clashes have been reported.

Iraqi PM rejects Kurdish offer

The areas Iraqi forces are moving into were mostly under Baghdad’s control in 2014, when Islamic State militants swept into the region. Kurdish Peshmerga and coalition forces recaptured the lands, and the Kurdistan Region has since held them.

The Iraqi leadership said it is retaking the areas to establish federal authority after a Kurdish referendum for independence in September threatened the nation’s unity. More than 92 percent of Kurds in Iraq voted “yes” in a vote Baghdad called illegal, and the international community leaders said was dangerous and ill-timed.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday rejected an offer by Kurdish leaders to freeze the results of their independence referendum in favor of dialogue in order to avoid further conflict.

The Kurdistan Regional Government, in a statement, said the confrontations have hurt both sides and could lead to ongoing bloodshed and social unrest in Iraq.

“Certainly, continued fighting does not lead any side to victory, but it will drive the country towards disarray and chaos, affecting all aspects of life,” the KRG said.

‘Unified Iraq is the only way to go’

Abadi said in a statement his government will accept only the annulment of the referendum and respect for the constitution.

During a briefing Friday morning at the Pentagon, Joint Staff Director Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. told reporters the U.S. believes “a unified Iraq is the only way to go forward.”

He added, “We’re not helping anyone attack anyone else inside Iraq, either the Kurds or the Iraqis.”(VOA)

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