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Intelligence intercepts picked up chatter between ISIS operatives boasting about taking down an airliner after the Russian Metrojet passenger plane crashed in the Sinai last weekend, killing all 224 aboard, U.S. officials told NBC News Friday.
ISIS operatives in the Sinai and ISIS leadership in Raqqa, Syria, were “clearly celebrating" the takedown of the commercial airliner, one official said. Details about how the plane was brought down were also intercepted, but the officials wouldn’t specify what information was shared between the militants.
Another intercept picked up a signal from an ISIS-affiliated group in the Sinai Peninsula before Metrojet Flight 9268 went down. The communications warned of “something big in the area,” but didn’t specifically mention a plane, officials said.
An adviser familiar the U.S. intelligence said the call was made between members of Wilayat Sinai, which a U.S. official said was one of the “most potent” branches of ISIS.
Speculation about whether the plane was brought down by a bomb has heightened since the jet crashed Saturday.
The voice recorder recovered from the black box from the crashed jet is working, Mohamed Rahma, a spokesman for Egypt's ministry of aviation, said. The voice recorder could provide clues about what brought the plane down.
President Barack Obama said Thursday that it's possible a bomb brought down the plane.
"There is information that is known by the — by the U.S. government — that led the president to make that statement," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.
British officials believe someone with access to the cargo hold placed an explosive device on the plane prior to takeoff, the BBC reported Friday.
But Egypt has refused to speculate on the cause of the crash until they complete their official investigation.
Still, Britain has suspended flights from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, and on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered all Russian flights to Egypt suspended.
Putin acted on a recommendation from his chief of intelligence. Egyptian President spoke by phone with Putin on Friday, Egypt's presidential press office said in a statement.
"The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation between the relevant security authorities in the two countries, and with a common understanding of providing Russian tourists with the highest levels of security," the statement from Egypt said.
Flights don't fly directly from Sharm el-Sheikh to the United States, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Friday announced additional security measures to be implemented on commercial flights bound for the United States from certain foreign airports.
The U.S. is teaming up with foreign governments to ramp up security at airports with direct flights to the U.S., including Cairo and Kuwait as well as Amman, Jordan. In all, just under ten airports in the region are affected.
The enhancements include expanded screening of anyone or anything that goes on a plane — luggage, food, beverages and cargo.The screening also includes fresh assessments in conjunction with America's international partners of foreign airports and offers of other aviation and airport security assistance to those airports.
In all, less than 10 airports in the region are affected.
The security upgrade comes a year after the Transportation Security Administration issued an emergency directive for overseas airports to watch for explosive devices.