US Intelligence Reports Indicate IS May Have Planted Bomb in Russian PlaneNovember 5, 2015 in Egypt
Days after authorities dismissed claims that the Islamic State (IS) Group brought down a Russian passenger jet on Saturday, a US intelligence analysis has now suggested that either the terror group or one of its affiliates planted a bomb on the plane. On Thursday, Britain also disclosed that there was a significant possibility that IS’ Egyptian affiliate was behind a suspected bomb attack on the Russian airliner that killed 224 people in the Sinai Peninsula. Russia, however, has indicated that such theories remain speculation at this stage, adding that only the official investigation can determine what occurred. Egyptian officials have also disclosed that so far, there is no indication that a bomb was to blame.
On Saturday, Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula after breaking apart in mid-air. It was en route to St Petersburg from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Multiple US officials have indicated that the latest US intelligence has suggested that the crash was most likely caused by a bomb that was planted on the plane by IS or an affiliate. One US official has indicted that intelligence also suggests that someone at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport helped get a bomb onto the plane. The official disclosed that “this airport has lax security. It is known for that…But there is intelligence suggesting an assist from someone at the airport.” Officials however have stressed that no formal conclusion has been reached by the US intelligence community and that US officials have not seen forensic evidence from the crash investigation.
Egyptian authorities who are leading the investigation into the crash, have not publicly responded to the US intelligence reports however since the crash, they have downplayed the possibility that this could have been a terrorist attack. Both Egypt and Russia have also stated that any theories are “speculation.”
In the wake of the crash, late on Wednesday, the UK announced that it has suspended flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh. Ireland and the Netherlands have also banned flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh. On Thursday, German airline Lufthansa announced that its subsidiaries Edelweiss and Eurowings are stopping all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh. On Saturday, the airline reported that its planes would no longer fly over the Sinai Peninsula. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has disclosed that Russian planes are still flying to and from Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated in the wake of the UK suspending flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh, that it could be “some time” before all British tourists stranded in the tourist destination are home. Sources have disclosed that UK security experts are working with local authorities in order to get Britons home. Monarch airlines has reported that three “rescue flights” will operate on Friday. The airline further indicated that the flights would be in addition to its two scheduled flights. British Airways has also confirmed that it will operate two flights. There are an estimated 20,000 Britons in the Red Sea resort, including 1,000 residents. Extra UK consular staff have been drafted in to Sharm el-Sheikh aiport while a Ministry of Defense source has disclosed that a small team of UK military personnel are in the resort in order to advise Foreign Office officials and Department of Transport officials on logistics and security.
If a bomb did kill 224 passengers and crew aboard the Airbus A321, that would almost certainly undermine Egypt’s tourism industry, which is still recovering from years of political turmoil. On Thursday, security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport appeared to have been tightened, with security forces patrolling the terminals and not allowing drivers, tour agents or others to loiter while awaiting tourist arrivals.