The Russian plane crash in Sinai: Bad news either way

Friday 13/11/2015

Officially, we don’t yet know what caused a Russian passenger jet flying holidaymakers from Sharm el-Sheikh to Russia to explode over the Sinai. Whatever brought down the plane and killed 224 people is not good news in the ongoing and expanding Middle East crisis.
Titbits of information have begun to filter out, primarily from British and US intelligence sources, indicating that it was very likely a bomb placed on the plane that was the cause of the disaster. The Egyptians are saying much, hiding behind the fact that it is too early to really know what hap­pened.
However, if the crash was caused by a bomb, chances are they should know after examining debris from the plane and the condition of bodies recovered if an explosive device had been detonated.
US and British intelligence services have indicated — albeit discreetly — they believe it was a bomb that brought down the plane. This, they claim, is based on “chatter”.
The facts on the ground lead to the conclusion that it was indeed an explosion, in other words a bomb, that brought down the aeroplane. Otherwise, why else would the Russians, the British and other Europeans cancel flights to and from tourist destinations in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula? That would not have been the case if there were not strong indications that it was a bomb.
If confirmed that it was a bomb­ing, it brings the current conflict between Islamists and the rest of the world in new light. And it’s a pretty morbid light.
It shows that the Islamic State (ISIS) or sympathisers of the movement penetrated the security perimeter of Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport. This could have happened a number of ways.
They could have a sympathiser working at the airport or some­one who was paid off or coerced to comply through threats. That person could easily add a suitcase to the luggage load on any aero­plane. This would explain why several carriers flying European tourists out of the Sinai allowed only carry-on luggage, leaving checked-in bags to be forwarded at a later date as an added security measure.
Maybe it is time for airlines to seriously consider bringing back the practice of having passengers down on the tarmac identifying their bags before they are loaded. The trouble is that it is time-consuming and planes fall behind schedule, which hurts the air travel industry’s bottom line.
If radical Islamists are behind this plot it takes the conflict to a new level and adds a new peg in the security challenges at all airports.
Securing luggage is a very diffi­cult procedure. One of the security requirements in air travel is that luggage remains in the custody of the traveller after packing. But it is not unusual on holiday tours for passengers to leave bags at a hotel luggage room or with a porter while they enjoy a last few hours of sightseeing or sunbathing, then return to the hotel to pick up the luggage and head to the airport.
When asked if the luggage was in their possession all the time since it was packed, they typically answer, yes.