Egypt in quandary over confirmation of Russian plane bombing
CAIRO - Egypt is in an unenviable situation after an announcement by the Kremlin that a bomb brought down a Russian passenger plane over Sinai, killing all 224 people on board.
Cairo had been in denial as to the potential cause of the October 31st disaster since it occurred shortly after take-off from Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport en route to St Petersburg.
The bomb-on-board scenario wold mean that the Islamic State (ISIS) was able to infiltrate Egypt’s airport security.
“This means that we are in bad need for extra security measures at our airports,” security analyst Farouk Megrahi said after defending Egypt’s security procedures.
Russia on November 17th said that a home-made bomb brought down the Metrojet airliner over Sinai, confirming that the plane was destroyed by a terrorist act. Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to find and punish those responsible and ordered an increase in air strikes in Syria as “inevitable retribution” for the attack.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who had downplayed the terrorist act scenario as “premature”, has not commented on the Russian investigation results.
Sisi was in London in early November and was not apparently given the British intelligence information about the crash, information that was confided to Putin only hours later.
But now that the bomb seems to be the most likely, Egypt has to deal with its possible disastrous economic and diplomatic consequences.
On November 17th, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said concerned agencies would take the results of the Russian investigation into consideration. An inquiry into the plane crash is continuing in Egypt.
News that Egypt had arrested two Sharm el-Sheikh airport officials in connection with the plane crash was dismissed by the Interior Ministry.
The sure thing, however, is that Egypt will soon have to act to address suspected holes in its airport security, observers say.
Political commentator Nabil Fouad said he does not expect the crisis to negatively affect Egyptian- Russian ties. However, he anticipated it to have disastrous consequences on the Egyptian economy.
Since the plane crash, thousands of Russian and British tourists have left Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, amid reports that bazaars are closing in the two resorts.
Russia used to send Egypt about 3 million visitors a year, a little less than 30% of all tourists coming to the country and a boon to an economy reeling from the effects of years of political turmoil.