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The Islamic State Says This Soda Can Bomb Downed the Russian Airliner. Are They Lying?

The militant group claims an improvised explosive device in the form of a Schweppes soda can brought down the Russian airliner over Egypt, but there are reasons for skepticism.

by VICE News
Nov 18 2015, 9:40pm

Imagen vía Dabiq/SITE Intelligence

The Islamic State has published a photo of an improvised explosive device in the form of a Schweppes soda can, claiming it is similar to the one that took down a Russian plane over Egypt's Sinai peninsula earlier this month.

The photo of the can, alongside what appeared to be a detonator and switch, appeared in the latest issue of Dabiq, the militant group's English-language propaganda magazine,on Wednesday.

"The divided Crusaders of the East and West thought themselves safe in their jets as they cowardly bombarded the Muslims of the Caliphate," the magazine read, referencing Russia and the West. "And so revenge was exacted upon those who felt safe in the cockpits."

Wilayat Sinai, an Egyptian group that has pledged allegiance to IS, immediately claimed responsibility for downing the plane and killing all 224 people on board.

The aircraft, an Airbus A321 operated by Metrojet, was carrying Russian vacationers from the Egyptian resort town Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg when it broke up over Sinai. "We can unequivocally say this is a terrorist act," Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service or FSB, Russia's state security agency, said on Tuesday.

Bortnikov said traces of foreign-made explosive had been found on fragments of the downed plane and on passengers' personal belongings. He said the bomb probably contained around 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of TNT.

Related: Downed Russian Jet Was Not Struck From the Outside, Say Investigators

The soda can pictured in the magazine photo appears to be of the regular 12-ounce variety, casting doubts on the IS claims that it was the type of bomb that brought down the plane.

IS released the photo the same day that Russian media outlet Kommersant published an article citing an unnamed source close to the plane investigation who said that the bomb had been placed in the main cabin of the craft, and not in the cargo compartment as initially reported.

"According to a preliminary version, the bomb could have been laid under the passenger seat by the window. Its operation has led to the destruction of the frame and depressurization of the cabin, which had an explosive character," the newspaper said.

'The bomb could have been laid under the passenger seat by the window.'

On Wednesday, IS also published a photo of what it said were passports belonging to dead Russians "obtained by the mujahideen." VICE News could not immediately verify the authenticity of the published photos.

The militant group, which has seized large swathes of Syria and Iraq, said it had exploited a loophole at Sharm al-Sheikh airport, where the plane originated, in order to smuggle a bomb on board. The airport is widely used by budget and charter airlines to fly tourists to the nearby resorts on the Sinai coast.

Related: Islamic State 'Inside Man' Might Have Planted Bomb on Russian Plane

The group said it initially planned to bring down a plane belonging to a country participating in the US-led coalition bombing IS targets in Syria and Iraq, but it changed course after Moscow started launching its own airstrikes in Syria.

"A bomb was smuggled onto the airplane, leading to the deaths of 219 Russians and five other crusaders only a month after Russia's thoughtless decision," IS said.

"This was to show the Russians and whoever allies with them that they will have no safety in the lands and airspace of the Muslims," the group wrote. "That their daily killing of dozens in (Syria) through their air strikes will only bring them calamities."

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, began launching airstrikes against opposition groups in Syria — including Islamic State — on September 30.

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to hunt down those responsible. Putin offered a $50 million reward for information leading to those responsible, and said Russia would intensify its airstrikes against militants in Syria.

"We will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them," Putin said of the plane bombers at a somber Kremlin meeting.

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Reuters contributed to this report.