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Bomb suspected in crash of Metrojet Flight 7K9268 in the Sinai Peninsula
Egyptian soldiers at the crash site in the Sinai.
This week’s snapshot focuses on Flight 7K9268, the second civilian airliner to crash while cruising above contested ground in the last 16 months. On 31OCT, a Russian operated Airbus A321 flying from Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt to St. Petersburg, Russia, crashed into the Sinai Peninsula killing all the 224 people on board, most of whom were Russian. Within 24 hours, a militant group affiliated with the Islamic State in Egypt claimed responsibility “in response to Russian airstrikes that killed hundreds of Muslims on Syrian land.” By 08NOV, many international officials suggested that the cause of the crash was a bomb planted on board the aircraft.
News summary of events during the week of 02NOV15 – 09NOV15
- 02NOV: The first bodies from 7K9268 arrived in St Petersburg aboard a Russian government plane. (Reuters)
- 02NOV: As investigators representing five countries were deployed to the crash site in northern Sinai, state and non-state entities continued to provide politically charged claims, dismissals, and theories as to the cause of the crash. (WSJ)
- 03NOV: Egyptian President el-Sisi, who continues to battle an insurgency in the Sinai and whose economy relies on tourism, dismissed as propaganda claims that terrorism was involved in the crash. (BBC)
- 03NOV: Following el-Sisi’s statement, the Kremlin said it was inappropriate to link Russia’s military strategy in Syria with the recent jet crash in Egypt.” (Al Arabiya)
- 03NOV: American military officials said satellite surveillance detected a large flash of light just as the Russian chartered aircraft broke apart in midair. (NYT)
- 04NOV: Britain and Ireland halted flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh. (WP)
- 05NOV: British PM David Cameron said the plane crash over Egypt was “more likely than not” caused by a bomb. (Guardian)
- 05NOV: US President Barack Obama said there was “a possibility” a terrorist bomb was responsible for the incident. (Independent)
- 05NOV: Russia and Egypt urged caution over suggestions from the UK and US earlier in the day, and the Russian foreign ministry said it was “shocking” that Britain had not shared the evidence. (BBC)
- 06NOV: Sources close to the probe said analysis of black boxes from the A321 points to a bomb. (AFP)
- 06NOV: Russia suspended all flights into Egypt, signaling that the Kremlin now feared a bomb was responsible. (NYT)
- 06NOV: Following Russia’s concession to the increasing signs of a terrorist attack, the el-Sisi regime continued to resist the possibility that a bomb brought down the aircraft. (NYT)
- 07NOV: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said around 80,000 Russians remained stranded in Egypt after the Kremlin grounded all flights to the country. (Reuters)
- 07NOV: Egypt’s investigation committee said a noise of interest was registered in the final seconds of the cockpit’s voice recorder, but stressed it was too soon for conclusions. (Reuters)
- 07NOV: Amid increased international attention to the security of airspace over the Sinai, a UK government inquiry concluded a plane was forced to maneuver away from a rocket as it descended into Sharm el-Sheikh airport in August. (BBC)
- 07NOV: In a rare request from the Russian government, the US FBI agreed to help execute forensic analysis of plane debris. (NYT)
- 07NOV: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticized a lack of foreign intelligence sharing and Western public approaches to the investigative process. (Guardian)
- 08NOV: An Egyptian member of the investigation team said investigators are “90 percent sure” the noise heard in the final second of a cockpit recording was an explosion caused by a bomb. (Reuters)
- 08NOV: Senior US House members said there was a mounting consensus among American intelligence officials that a bomb brought down 7K9268, while the Russian government announced it would audit Egyptian airport security systems and give recommendations about “what additional security measures should be introduced.” (NYT)
- 09NOV: Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said that “there is a strong probability” that 7K9268 was brought down by an attack. (AFP)
- 09NOV: Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev admitted that the crash was possibly caused by a terrorist attack. (AFP)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Flight 7K9268 crash
- @sarahrainsford – Sarah Rainsford, BBC Moscow Correspondent (personal account)
- @Beltrew – Bel Trew, Middle East Reporter for The Times, The Sunday Times (UK)
- @OrlaGuerin – Orla Guerin, BBC News Correspondent in Cairo
- @WilliamsJon – Jon Williams, Managing Editor/Foreign Editor at ABC News
- @juliaioffe – Julia Ioffe, Contributing Writer at New York Times Magazine, Columnist at Foreign Policy
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Flight 7K9268 crash
Igor Sutyagin, Russia Specialist, Royal United Services Institute
“It is very rare occasion when Putin has had to listen to the professionals. He has had to defend the line all week that he does not make mistakes, that it was not a mistake diving into Syria.”
- Mounting suspicions over over Sinai plane crash force Russian response, Guardian, 06NOV15
Jim Hall, Crisis management expert and former National Transportation Safety Board chair, Hall & Associates LLC
“With the growing terrorist threat around the world, we can’t have people stall or otherwise drag their feet… We can’t be playing games with this issue, since we’re going to be dealing with [it] for a number of years.”
– Confusion Over Sinai Crash Prompts Calls for More-Open Probes, WSJ, 06NOV15
Magomed Tolboev, Soviet-era test-pilot and Cosmonaut, current part-time consultant and commentator on aviation issues
“Nothing except an explosion on board can cause a complete and immediate power outage in a modern plane, which has lots of generators which could help steer the plane even if all the engines suddenly died.”
- In Russia, conflicting theories over passenger jet crash in Sinai, LAT, 02NOV15
Michael Wahid Hanna, Senior Fellow, Century Foundation in New York
“The international community is not going to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt… They are going to have to go about this [investigation] in a way that is quite different from the past.”
- -Resisting Bomb Theory, Egypt Finds Itself Increasingly Alone, NYT, 06NOV15
Shashank Joshi, Senior Research Fellow, Royal United Services Institute, Research Associate, Changing Character of War Programme, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
“If it is confirmed that a bomb did bring down Kogalymavia Flight 9268, and that Isis or one of its allies was responsible, the irony is that Vladimir Putin could be pressed into actually doing what he has been pretending to do for a month: directly targeting Isis in Syria…But pressing Isis harder could bring Russian jets into closer proximity to the US-led coalition.”
- Russia’s Syria strategy tested as Egypt crash suspicions grow, FT, 05NOV15
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Flight 7K9268 crash
1. Obama: It’s Possible Bomb Took Down Russian Plane
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Carol E. Lee
Date: 05 November 2015
President Barack Obama said Thursday that it’s possible a bomb brought down a Russian airliner in Egypt over the weekend and suggested such an incident would be less likely to happen on flights inbound and outbound to the U.S.
“I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board, and we’re taking that very seriously,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with KIRO, a CBS-affiliate TV station in Seattle. “We’re going to spend a lot of time just making sure that our own investigators and our own intelligence community figures out exactly what’s going on before we make any definitive pronouncements. But it is certainly possible that there was a bomb on board.”
2. Kremlin: Flights with Egypt to resume once due safety level established with Cairo
Media: Interfax (Russia)
Date: 06 November 2015
Air communication with Egypt will be suspended until its safety is ensured in close cooperation with the Egyptian authorities, the Kremlin has said.
“It is necessary to explain that the Russian president meant a suspension of air communication with Egypt until a due level of safety of this air communication is established jointly with Egyptian partners,” Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
3. Egypt Plane Crash Investigators Attempt to Identify Noise in Flight Recording
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Tamer El-Ghobashy and Andy Pasztor
Date: 07 November 2015
CAIRO—Egyptian officials said Saturday that investigators are trying to determine the nature of a noise heard in the final second of the cockpit recording from last weekend’s crash of a Russian passenger plane, while criticizing foreign governments for not sharing intelligence that has led them to suspect terrorism.
In the Egyptian civil aviation ministry’s first public briefing since last weekend’s crash of an Airbus A321, which killed 224 people, Ayman Al Moqadem called on foreign governments to disclose any intelligence that led them to speculate that the plane was brought down by a bomb.
4. Gaps in Egyptian Airport Security Face Scrutiny After Crash
Media: New York Times
Byline: KAREEM FAHIM, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and NICOLA CLARK
Date: 07 November 2015
SHARM EL SHEIKH, Egypt — The airport is surrounded by a wall topped with barbed wire. Armed sentries are stationed at its entrance, and passengers pass through two security screenings before reaching departure gates; before a recent flight, there were no fewer than eight uniformed guards standing around the checkpoint.
But potential inconsistencies in airport security here and elsewhere in Egypt have never been hard to detect. As guards at a metal detector here forced a departing passenger recently to throw out a pack of safety razors found in his luggage, an airport cafe worker breezed past the checkpoint without any search or inspection. At the Cairo airport on Friday, an officer at an X-ray machine sent text messages while he was scanning luggage. Another guard took a passenger at his word when he said the phone in his pocket had caused a metal detector to beep.
5. About 11,000 Russian tourists evacuated from Egypt last 24 hours – deputy PM
Media: Tass (Russia)
Date: 08 November 2015
VNUKOVO, November 8. /TASS/. Over the past 24 hours, about 11,000 Russian tourists were evacuated from Egypt, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters on Sunday.
“Today, the number will be even higher,” he said. “Today will be the hottest day in this aspect.”