A homemade explosive device brought down a Russian passenger plane over Egypt last month, the head of Russia's FSB security service said Tuesday, telling Russian President Vladimir Putin it's now clear the bombing that killed 224 people was a "terrorist" act.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for downing the Russian plane in written statements, as well as video and audio messages posted on the Internet following the crash.
"According to our experts, a homemade explosive device equivalent to one kilogram of TNT went off onboard, which caused the plane to break up in the air, which explains why the fuselage was scattered over such a large territory. I can certainly say that this was a terrorist act," FSB head Alexander Bortnikov said.
He said tests showed the explosives had been produced outside of Russia, but gave no further details.
All of the people on board, most of them Russian tourists, were killed when the Metrojet Airbus 321-200 crashed over the Sinai Peninsula on October 31, about 23 minutes after taking off from the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh. The plane was headed to St. Petersburg, where most of the passengers were from.
In Cairo, there was no immediate comment on the news from the Egyptian government. State-owned television carried the newsbreak from Moscow, but had no official comment either.
Egypt had resisted British and US assertions that an explosive device was the likely cause of the Russian plane crashing. Later, government officials and pro-government media shifted their focus away from the cause of the crash to speculating on what they called a Western conspiracy against Egypt and the crushing impact of the crash on the country's vital tourism industry.
Meanwhile, two security officials said on Tuesday that Egyptian authorities have detained two employees of Sharm al-Sheikh airport in connection with the downing of the plane.
"Seventeen people are being held, two of them are suspected of helping whoever planted the bomb on the plane at Sharm al-Sheikh airport," one of the officials said.
It was not immediately clear what role the employees had at the airport, which is Egypt's third-busiest, handling a vast number of charter and budget flights for tourists seeking sea and sun in the southern Sinai peninsula.
Egypt's interior minister denied that two workers had been arrested, however.
Russia: We will hunt down those responsible
Putin vowed to hunt down those responsible for the attack.
"There's no statute of limitations for this. We need to know all of their names," Putin said. "We're going to look for them everywhere wherever they are hiding. We will find them in any place on Earth and punish them."
The Islamic State group said the attack was retaliation for Russia's air campaign against IS and other groups in Syria, where Moscow wants to preserve the rule of President Bashar Assad.
Putin said Tuesday that Russia's air campaign in Syria "should not only continue but should be intensified so that the criminals realize that retribution is inevitable."
He instructed the Defense Ministry and General Staff to present their suggestions on how Russia's operation in Syria could be modified.
Russia staged air strikes on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria on Tuesday, a senior French government source said.
"At this moment, the Russians are in the process of strongly hitting the city of Raqqa, which is proof that they too are becoming conscious (of the threat from Islamic State)," the source said.
At the same time, Putin offered a cash prize of $50 million to whomever could provide information that would help with the capture of the "terrorists."
"In this work, including the search to find and punish the criminals, we are relying on all of our friends," Putin said. "We will act in accordance with the UN Charter's Article 51, which gives each country the right to self-defense. Everyone who tries to aid the criminals should understand that they will be responsible for giving them shelter."
Russia made the announcement the day after meetings with other world leaders in Turkey, where they vowed to work together to combat the Islamic State group.
IS has warned Putin that it would also target him "at home," but did not offer any details to back its claim. While releasing specifics would add credibility, the group may be withholding because its claim is false, because doing so would undermine plans for similar attacks in the future, or because the aura of mystery might deepen its mystique among die-hard followers.
IS has also claimed responsibility for Friday's attacks in Paris that killed 132 people and wounded 350 others.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.