Egypt in quandary over confirmation of Russian plane bombing

Saturday 21/11/2015
Minute of silence

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.