Reuters International

The remains of a Russian airliner which crashed is seen in central Sinai near El Arish city, north Egypt, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's Public Prosecutor Ahmed Sadeq said on Thursday he had referred the case of the Russian airplane that crashed in Sinai last year to State Security prosecutors to look into suspicions that criminal activity brought it down.

The Egyptian-led committee investigating the crash, in which all 224 people aboard were killed, said last month it had sent the case to the public prosecution after a Russian investigation raised suspicion of criminal activity.

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

Russia has long said a bomb destroyed the airliner. Islamic State, whose Egyptian affiliate is waging an insurgency in the Sinai, immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and later said it smuggled the explosive aboard in a soft drink can.

But Egyptian officials did not acknowledge evidence of foul play until February, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a televised speech that terrorists had brought down the plane to hurt tourism and relations with Russia.

An official Egyptian confirmation that a bomb brought down the Airbus A-321 jet could expose Egypt to compensation payments to the families of the victims, most of them holiday-makers in search of winter sun.

The crash has called into question Egypt's campaign to eradicate Islamist militancy and damaged its tourism sector, a cornerstone of the economy.

Islamist militants have stepped up attacks on Egyptian soldiers and police since Sisi, as army chief, toppled freely elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Islamic State's online magazine carried a photo of a pineapple-flavoured Schweppes soft drink it said was used to make an improvised bomb that blew the airliner out of the sky.

An EgyptAir mechanic whose cousin joined Islamic State in Syria is suspected of planting the bomb, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters in January.

A senior security official at the airline denied that any of its employees had been arrested or were under suspicion, and an Interior Ministry official also said there had been no arrests.

(Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Writing by Lin Noueihed; Editing by Michael Georgy)

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