President Obama said today he thinks there is a “possibility that there was a bomb on board” the Russian jet that broke up in mid-air over Egypt this weekend, killing more than 200 people.
“I don’t think we know yet” what caused the crash, Obama told CBS affiliate KIRO Radio. “Whenever you’ve got a plane crash, first of all you’ve got the tragedy, you’ve got making sure there’s an investigation on site. I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board. And we are taking that very seriously... We’re going to spend a lot of time making sure our own investigators and our own intelligence community figures out exactly what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements. But it is certainly possible that there was a bomb on board.”
Obama’s comments follow a chorus of top U.S. officials who have said in recent days that an explosive device could be to blame for the crash, but that no definitive assessment has been made. Overnight, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff the bomb theory is “consistent with what we know,” but also indicated other explanations for the crash could also be “consistent with what [the U.S. government] know[s]."
Beyond that, Carter said, "We don’t have information to share with you on that."
Late Wednesday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that while the investigation is on going, there was a "significant possibility" the crash was caused by a bomb, and Britain was suspending flights to and from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the plane's origin, indefinitely.
Early this morning Egyptian authorities fired back at those comments, saying they "have to move quickly to stop these allegations."
"This is only meant to hurt tourism and strike economy," Egyptian Gen. Khaled Fouda, the governor of South Sinai, said. "We have to wait for the results of the black box and those who don't want to wait are biased."
Fouda reiterated earlier claims that the plane "had many problems" and could have gone down due to mechanical failure.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said earlier today the Russian government too was "shocked" by the British allegations and said they will wait for the investigation to take its course. Whatever intelligence the British are using to make their assessment, the spokesperson said, was not being shared with the Russian government.
Hours after the deadly crash Saturday, an affiliate of ISIS claimed credit for downing the plane -- a claim initially dismissed by many security officials.
Seth Jones, Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the defense think tank Rand Corporation, said there are "indications" the Sharm el-Sheikh airport itself "may have been compromised" by ISIS.
Carter told ABC News that ISIS involvement in the tragedy was "always a possibility."
Some 20,000 British tourists are believed to be in Sharm el-Sheikh, but British Foreign Minister Hammond told BBC Radio that the government suspended flights home because it was not satisfied with security arrangements at the airport there.
Egypt's Gen. Fouda said that the airport is "equipped with highly-sophisticated equipment."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this report identified a U.S. Navy ship as the USS Roosevelt. It is the USS Theodore Roosevelt.