U.S. and European intelligence agencies now believe that the Russian airliner downed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on the weekend was probably taken out by a bomb planted onboard by an Islamic State-affiliated terrorist group, according to media reports.
The Russian airplane may have been attacked by Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) because Russia is waging war against it.
British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond said yesterday it appears a bomb ripped apart the Airbus A321M on Saturday, Oct. 31, killing all 224 souls onboard. It is reportedly Russia’s worst air disaster on record. The Russian-operated plane that was registered in Ireland had taken off earlier from the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh bound for St. Petersburg, Russia.
“We have concluded that there is a significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft,” Hammond said as his government gears up for a British visit today by Egypt’s anti-Islamist president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
While Hammond did not finger a culprit, a group loyal to Islamic State has claimed responsibililty for the atrocity more than once and has vowed to explain at some point how it carried the attack out.
The American intelligence community is also seemingly convinced that the crash was caused by a bomb:
The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash of a Russian passenger jet in the Sinai over the weekend was most likely caused by a bomb on the plane planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. But the official stressed a formal conclusion has not been reached by the U.S. intelligence community. “There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane,” the official, who is familiar with the latest U.S. intelligence analysis of the crash, told CNN.
An Egyptian terrorist group, Sinai Province, an ally of Islamic State, boasted in an audio message posted to Twitter that the attack was carried out “in response to Russian air strikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.” At least one news report cautioned that this claim “could not immediately be authenticated.”
In the recorded message a male speaker reportedly says:
We say to the deniers and the doubters: Die from your frustration. We, with God’s grace, are the ones who brought it down, and we are not obliged to disclose the mechanism of its demise.
So go to the wreckage, search, bring your black boxes and analyze, give us the summary of your research and the product of your expertise and prove that we did not bring it down or how it came down.
We will disclose the mechanism of its demise at the time that we want and in the way that we want.
It should be noted that Sinai Province has reportedly killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police officers since Sisi overthrew the Obama-backed Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013 following a popular uprising. (Here is a link to a useful list of Sinai Province activities.)
On the day of the attack Sinai Province reportedly released a statement on Twitter:
Breaking: Downing of Russian airplane, killing of more than 220 Russian crusaders on board.
Soldiers of the Caliphate were able to bring down a Russian plane above Sinai Province with at least 220 Russian crusaders aboard.
They were all killed, praise be to God. O Russians, you and your allies take note that you are not safe in Muslims lands or their skies.
The killing of dozens daily in Syria with bombs from your planes will bring woe to you. Just as you are killing others, you too will be killed, God willing.
The same day an unidentified Egyptian source described as familiar with the investigation of the two recovered black boxes that record in-flight data said signs don’t necessarily point to a bomb. “It is believed to be an explosion but what kind is not clear. There is an examination of the sand at the crash site to try and determine if it was a bomb … to see if traces of explosives are found.”
One of the black boxes was damaged and extracting data from it was a challenge for investigators.
Protective of Egypt’s tourism industry, officials in that U.S.-allied country have publicly downplayed the possibility that the airplane was bombed. After media outlets in Egypt reported that a voice recorder captured unusual sounds before the crash, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kemal was noncommittal.
“This is all speculation,” Kemal said. “There is nothing definitive until the investigation commission completes its probe.”
An unidentified Russian aviation official said investigators in the ongoing probe have two theories.
“There are two versions now under consideration: something stowed inside [the airliner] and a technical fault. But the airplane could not just break apart in the air – there should be some action. A rocket is unlikely as there are no signs of that,” the official said.
Investigators and analysts don’t believe the plane’s fuselage was hit from the outside. They say the jihadists of Sinai Province lack the technological sophistication to shoot down an airplane flying higher than 30,000 feet.
Americans should be concerned that the head-cutting fanatics of Islamic State have also vowed to attack targets inside the United States.
After the mass-casualty attack at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 1, Islamic State reportedly claimed responsibility. In that massacre, Chris Harper-Mercer, a young American who was apparently a fan of the Nazi-SS and the Islamist-friendly IRA, shot a Jewish professor and others.
The manner of killing is relevant. Harper-Mercer murdered those who identified themselves as Christians, just as some Muslim terrorists do. It is also interesting that hero Alek Skarlatos, who helped foil an Islamist attack on a train in France this summer, is a student at the same college. He said he was supposed to be at the college the day of the attack but was away for a taping of “Dancing with the Stars.” More recently in Sacramento, Calif., Skarlatos friend Spencer Stone, who also took on the train jihadist and in the process nearly lost his thumb, was stabbed almost to death by assailants who are still at large.
Both Skarlatos and Stone would be attractive targets for Islamists angry at them for their role in undermining the train plot.
Meanwhile, a Soviet-era Antonov-12 airplane crashed yesterday soon after takeoff in Juba, South Sudan, which used to be occupied by Egypt.
Although initial reports do not blame terrorism for the incident, the highly unstable, terrorist-infested South Sudan broke away from the brutal Islamist nation of Sudan in 2011. Sudan allows jihadist groups to train on its territory.
Sudan, including the area that is now known as South Sudan, used to be ruled jointly by the Egyptian and British governments.
CNN paraphrased a South Sudanese presidential spokesman saying “18 people were aboard the flight: 12 South Sudanese passengers and six crew members – five Armenians and one Russian. Three people survived: two South Sudanese passengers and an infant boy less than a year old[.]”
The owner of the aircraft was not known but it was registered in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, 90 percent of whose inhabitants were Muslims as of 2003, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Whatever comes of the Juba investigation, one thing is certain: Islamic State is only getting started.
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