November 4, 2015

Russian Airliner Crash in Sinai - Sunni Terrorists?

Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed (cause unknown) while enroute from the Egyptian coastal resort airport at Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg, Russia, on October 31, 2015. 224 people were killed. 

The jet apparently exploded higher than 30,000 feet - too high to be shot down by a small man portable missile MANPAD of the type that may be available to terrorists. A larger, higher altitude, truck mounted missile is unlikely as the heat plume, as such a missile rose up, could be detected by the many satellites focussing on the region. Also experts assume terrorist organisations don't have the ability to use larger ungainly, difficult to operate missiles.  So - a bomb on board? 
(Map diagrams above courtesy Washington Post via Maps On The Web)

Sharm El Sheikh Airport, Egypt (looking rudimentary security-wise) where the Russian airliner took off.

So how would a Russian security official in the employ of President for Life, Putin report on the crash of Russian airliner Flight 9268?

Even though ISIS (aka IS or ISIL etc) has claimed that it destroyed the plane it is important not to link the crash with Russia's new military venture against ISIS in Syria. Russia officially (or through its news organ RT) cannot come to a conclusion that terrorist action brought down the jet.

Egyptian soldiers collecting personal belongings, into body bags, at the crash site (Photo courtesy Associated Press via Huffington Post

The Russian official may be concerned about security standards at secondary Egyptian airports like Sharm el-Sheikh where the Russian airliner took off. The Russian may be concerned that baggage handlers, security gate and customs officers etc may be lax, or the possibility that they are security threats. Only a small minority might be sufficient to facilitate a bomb. That small minority may become significant given Egypt has almost 80 million Sunni MuslimsAs ISIS is also very Islamic and overtly Sunni a significant minority of Egyptians might be susceptible to ISIS persuasion.

Unlike countries of the Middle East that have oil, Egypt is not wealthy enough to have all the high tech security equipment and experienced security advisers. Egypt's capital Cairo Airport would have much high tech equipment but less so secondary airports like Sharm el-Sheikh.

Western governments are increasingly coming to the conclusion that a bomb destroyed the plane: "The Americans seem to have reached this conclusion based on intercepted communications messages from the Sinai region."

An Airbus A321 in Metrojet colours - identical to the Russian jet that crashed.

If it was terrorism and a bomb the Russian security official might consider questioning the risks of continued Russian participation in Iraq and Syria, but he will probably remain mute.

Remains of an engine from the crashed Russian airliner (Photo courtesy Maxim Grigoryev/TASS)

Passenger waiting at Sharm el-Sheikh airport. Perhaps 20,000 British stranded in Egypt will be evacuated by the UK Royal Air Force from November 6, 2015 (Photo and evacuation tip courtesy BBC via Huffington Post)



Anonymous said...

Unless one wants to become a statistic on the evening news, one should think more than twice before taking a vacation in a country with an existing and burgeoning insurgency. Lesson 101 for any insurgency movement is to hit the pocket book where it hurts.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Yes Egypt may well have an insurgency that is not identified by its military dictatorship:

The Australian Government's website indicates:

"Small explosions, resulting in death and injury, occur on a frequent basis in Cairo and other areas of Egypt. Attacks are generally directed at security forces, but bystanders have been killed and injured. Attacks occur most commonly around government buildings, at police facilities and checkpoints, in the vicinity of metro stations, on trains and at universities. Further attacks are likely."

"Tourists and tourist infrastructure in South Sinai remain an attractive target for extremists. In February 2014 a bomb explosion on a tourist bus in Taba, South Sinai, close to the Israeli border, killed four people and injured many. You should reconsider your need to travel to travel to South Sinai, including to the resort area of Sharm el Sheikh."

"If you choose to travel to Sharm el Sheikh, you are strongly encouraged to avoid unnecessary road travel outside of the resort areas. There have been a number of abductions involving foreign nationals in South Sinai, including on the road to St Catherine’s Monastery."

Looks Dangerous


MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I have been to Egypt after the Luxor massacre had happened.

Easy rule: don't dress like a tourist. Old shoes, a pair of dirty jeans and outdated shirt will do it.

You don't have to fear the Egyptian bombs. You have to fear the Egyptian drivers!

Incredible country. We have been down to Abu Simble on our own van. Just a small strip of land on both sides of the Nil and after a few hundred meters desert.


Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

The Luxor Massacre and now this likely aircraft bombing is a reminder how dangerous Egypt (and much of the Middle East) regularly is. As well as wearing old clothes Western visitors staying safe means not travelling in tourist buses or aircraft (to, from and within). Not travelling on foot in many areas (including many parts of Cairo)

Not being journalists also helps as they can be arrested for terrorist-subversion -

Here's a list

Your van trip may have been during one of the few quiet, safe times.