Speculation is rife as to what caused the plane crash of a Russian Jet in Egypt, but more and more it appears to have been a bomb planted in the airplane’s cargo hold.
UK intelligence chimes in on the attack
The BBC is reporting that UK investigations by intelligence agencies are pointing more and more to the presence of a bomb on the plane prior to take off with the possibility of an airport employee being responsible for the crash that killed all 224 people on board the plane.
The Metrojet Airbus A321 took off from Sharm el-Sheikh with a flight plan filed for an arrival in St. Petersburg, Russia. The flight came apart in the air over the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday and the bulk of the remains also came down in Sinai.
British intelligence is claiming to have received information about the crash from intercepted communications between militants in the Sinai.
Both Egyptian and Russian officials are calling it far too early to speculate as to what caused the explosion that brought down the plane but U.S. and British intelligence don’t share that opinion.
Flights suspended by Russia, Britain
According to a Putin spokesman’s statement to Interfax, Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to suspend all Russian flights to Egypt based on the advice of intelligence advisors.
“While we are still have not determined the true causes of what happened, I think it would be advisable to halt all flights by Russian aviation to Egypt. That is, above all, tourist flights,” Aleksandr Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, recently told Interfax.
Late on Wednesday night, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stated that there was a “significant possibility” that the flight was brought down by a bomb and that Britain would indefinitely suspend flights to and from the Sinai resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Nearly 20,000 British holiday-goers remain grounded in Sharm el-Sheikh eagerly awaiting their return. While many were expected to leave today, the airline Easyjet is claiming that of its ten scheduled flights out only two have left the ground due to grounding by Egyptian officials.
Egypt is largely denying that they have refused to allow these flights to leave claiming that it’s simply a matter of “capacity.” Egyptian Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal explained the delays as a byproduct of enhanced security and more flights than usual looking to take off to Britain.
It’s likely that it will take up to ten days to get the remaining Brits out of Sharm el-Sheikh, and many of them will be forced to abandoned items they brought with them as the flights that will get them home have banned check luggage given security concerns.
What do Obama and other countries say?
According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday, the Obama administration is looking at “a number of different steps” to strengthen security at “certain foreign airports”
“At this point we don’t have enough information to make our own determination about what exactly occurred. But we do have enough information at this point to not rule out the possibility of terrorist involvement,” continued Earnest following British Prime Minister David Cameron’s use of the word “bomb” the day before.
“We’re going to spend a lot of time just making sure our own investigators and own intelligence community find out what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements,” said Obama himself in a radio interview yesterday. “But it’s certainly possible that there was a bomb on board,” he added.
France, Belgium and the Netherlands have all issued travel warnings to its citizens and is strongly recommending that potential holiday-goers rethink their plans to spend time in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Russian jet crash – Was ISIS responsible?
While it’s certainly conceivable that IS was behind the attack especially after Russia has stepped up its involvement in Syria, for the most part it’s believed that the bulk of Russian airstrikes carried out have targeted other groups opposed to the Assad regime rather than ISIS.
While ISIS’ Sinai branch has claimed responsibility for the attack on its myriad terror-related social media accounts with an audio statement, others are skeptical that the group carried out the attack given the lack of details the group as provided.
ISIS in the Sinai is the most active insurgent group in Egypt with estimates suggesting that the group has somewhere between 1000 and 1500 active members which have been operating in the Sinai Peninsula since 2011.
The Sinai militants pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State in November of 2014 and have been killing Egyptian soldiers in the dozens, along with carrying out numerous suicide bombings, beheadings and shooting attacks.