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Egypt's Sisi, for first time, says Russian plane was brought down by terrorists

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Wednesday that the Russian plane that crashed in Sinai last year was downed by terrorists seeking to damage Egypt’s tourism industry and relations with Moscow.

“Has terrorism ended, no it has not but it will if we unite. Whoever downed the Russian plane, what did he mean? He meant to hit tourism, and to hit relations with Russia,” Sisi said in a televised speech.

The comments were the first official Egyptian indication that the plane was deliberately downed.

Moscow stopped all civilian flights to Egypt, a popular destination for Russian tourists, after a Russian airplane crashed in Sinai on Oct. 31 killing all 224 people on board.

Russia said a bomb brought down the flight and Islamic State said it smuggled the explosive aboard concealed in a soft drink can. But an Egyptian-led investigation had said it has yet to find evidence of foul play.

The official Egyptian confirmation that a bomb brought down the Airbus A321 could potentially expose Egypt to compensation payments to the families of the victims.

Reporting by Mostafa Hashem; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Lin Noueihed/Jeremy Gaunt