Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Monday that the possible involvement of Islamic State terrorists in the deadly Russian jet crash over the weekend could not be ruled out.
"We don’t have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet," Clapper said at a conference in Washington, D.C., according to the Wall Street Journal. He said, however, that he "wouldn’t rule it out" when questioned about the Islamic State’s (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) ability to shoot down an airplane.
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A Russian airliner crashed early Saturday morning in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula soon after takeoff. The crash killed all 224 people on board traveling from Sharm El-Sheikh, a vacation destination in Egypt, to St. Petersburg. Most of the passengers were Russian nationals.
The Islamic State affiliate in Egypt claimed responsibility downing the jet, circulating a statement on social media declaring, "The soldiers of the caliphate succeeded in bringing down a Russian plane in Sinai." Russia has dismissed the claim.
Officials representing the Moscow-based airline, Metrojet, said Monday that only "external impact" could have caused the Airbus A321 to break up mid-air as it did.
"[The reason for the accident] could only have been a mechanical impact on the plane," Metrojet deputy director Alexander Smirnov said, according to USA Today. "We [are] excluding technical problems and rejecting human error."
The Russian government, which immediately sent investigators to Egypt to probe the crash, said that it remains too early to come to conclusions.
"It would be wrong to articulate any preliminary guesses or voice statements that are not based on anything. At least let the investigators produce some results first," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated, according to Russian news outlets.
The U.S., Germany, and Britain all have warned against flying over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, a region that has become a home for extremists.