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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Sinai air crash investigation: Potential Islamist responsibilities

By Giovanni Giacalone

As the investigation on the Kogalymavia Airbus crash progress, the bomb hypothesis becomes more and more plausible. Even though Egyptian authorities had immediately linked the crash to a structural failure or a potential engine explosion, this option seems now ruled out. The analysis of the black boxes did not reveal any problem in the aircraft equipment but they rather end abruptly, suggesting a sudden blast that split the aircraft in two pieces, separating the head from the tail and that is typical of a bomb blast. Similar conditions were found in previous plane detonations such as Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 and Uta flight 772 over the Tenerè desert in September 1989.

The missile hypothesis has also been excluded because the Airbus was flying at a cruising altitude of 9,000 meters and Isis terrorists do not have the required missiles and technology for such an operation.

Russia and Egypt still have to formally announce the cause of the disaster. Both countries dismissed as premature U.S. and British assessments last week that a bomb likely was responsible but in the meantime Moscow suspended passenger flights to Egypt. Over the weekend, Russia mounted an airlift to repatriate thousands of Russian vacationers who had been stranded in Sinai after regular flights were canceled. Foreign airlines such as Lufthansa, Easyjet, Klm, Air France and Emirates have also suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Responsibilities

If the bomb hypothesis is formally confirmed, then it will be mandatory to identify and prosecute the organizers and the perpetrators of this vicious crime.

Isis' local affiliate, which calls itself the al-Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province of Islamic State), claimed responsibility for the crash, and indicated it was in retaliation for Russia's military intervention in the Syrian civil war. The group pledged alliance to Isis in 2014 and is currently led by Abu Osama al-Masri.

Although the Isis claim needs to be carefully examined as it is not the only potential group that had interest in striking Russia and Egypt. In fact, in early October the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood had declared jihad against Russia for its anti-terrorist operation in Syria.

On October 5th the website of the Muslim Brotherhood posted a statement that glorified the resistance against Russia, Egypt and Iran, recalling previous anti-Moscow campaigns in Chechnya and Afghanistan:

"Amidst an international conspiracy against the Arab World, and Islamic identity as mainstream Sunni Muslims, courageous Syria and its great men stand steadfast in a historic battle against the Russian and Iranian occupiers and their criminal partner Al-Sisi.

The Muslim Brotherhood reiterates its full support for the Syrian people and the revolution against the treacherous Alawite criminal Bashar Al-Assad. The group refuses ongoing endeavors to divide Syria under the auspices of the Mullahs of Iran, the Czars of Russia and the criminal Zionists, with Arab blessing assisted by the heinous Al-Sisi.

The Brotherhood stresses that the continuation of the Russian and Iranian occupation of Syria means matters will get even worse, with the resistance seen in Chechnya and Afghanistan repeated with tragic consequences for Tehran, Moscow and their allies......"

These threats, which do not seem to have been taken into consideration by Western media in relation to the Airbus case, are extremely important. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century and it has been operating in the country for decades, finding support among the lower classes thanks to its economic aid to a vast part of the population which often goes side to side with Islamist indoctrination. In 2003 the Muslim Brotherhood was banned by the Supreme Court of Russia for links to Chechen terrorists and the organization is currently outlawed in Egypt Saudi Arabia, UAE and Syria.

Even though Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi took strong measures against the organization, it is clear that many sympathizers and members are still present and keeping a low profile. The Muslim Brotherhood, throughout the years, managed to infiltrate many areas of Egyptian society and penetrate key business and institutional positions.

Placing a bomb on a commercial airline is not an easy task; it requires the proper technical know-how, the capacity of disguising the explosive device among common objects and, most important of all, it might need the logistic support of a consolidated network on the ground, with a detailed knowledge of airport security measures and with possible "inside-men" operating in the structure.

The question is: could Isis have organized and perpetrated the whole operation by itself? Or did it require the help of a local network that had the capabilities of coordinating such a complex plan? According to some analysts the order of bombing the Airbus did not even come directly from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but it was more likely the work of a group that shared the Isis ideology, which makes sense because Isis is not an organization with a strict hierarchy like al-Qaeda and it can be seen more as a "franchising" of terror. It is true that jihadist Isis-linked groups such as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Wilayat Sinai are present in northern Sinai and are currently fighting the Egyptian government, but they are guerrilla-warfare oriented; the possibility that they would have the previously-discussed capabilities for such an act do raise serious doubts.

Giovanni Giacalone

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