Global Independent Analytics

No Terrorist Groups Took Credit for Downing EgyptAir Flight 804

However, experts have other theories

Karl Vick for Time reports: perhaps clarity on EgyptAir Flight 804 will surface with the black box, which reports say sensors have located in the Mediterranean Sea. But a week after the jet went down, from what analysts and government officials from Cairo to Washington repeat was very likely a terrorist attack, no terrorist group has claimed responsibility.

That’s disturbing all by itself. ISIS and al-Qaeda, the big global terror powers, tend to make their claims promptly. And even when they take their time, false claims bubble up from obscure groups trying to seize the spotlight. “Historically, numerous organizations make a claim even though they had nothing to do with it,” said Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

But this time, informational vacuum thickens, while terrorism specialists are weighing the possibilities:

 

-Was it a terror attack after all?

This explanation emerges because that has happened before. For example, in December 1994, Ramzi Youssef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, tucked a homemade bomb with a timer into the life vest under his seat on a Philippine Airlines flight, then left the plane. When the accident happened, no public claim was announced. “In a worst-case scenario,” The private intelligence company Stratfor warned, “we may have a competent bomb-maker on the loose with knowledge of how to get a bomb onto a plane, and the authorities have no idea what method he is using.”

-Was it a debut of a totally new terror group?

The absence of claims from ISIS and al-Qaeda “makes me think it might be a new group, or a splinter of a group,” said Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department. The likeliest version of its whereabouts is Egypt, considering downing of Russian charter plane in November. The new group or a splinter of a group might have formed in the region, repeating the previous Islamist groups that have set up to answer state violence, but they have specialized in low-level violence. Their slogan was: anything that is below bullets is nonviolent.

-Was it an individual act of terror?

Another scenario suggested by the analysts is planting the bomb by individuals, motivated by radical ideology, but not organized as a group. While that is a valid point, there still is no explanation why there has been no statement claiming credit. “It’s unusual to be waging a military campaign and not tell anyone why you’re doing it,” Schanzer said. Like other experts, he does not claim to have answers: “It’s just very odd. Every day that goes by, it conjures up more thoughts, and scary thoughts.”

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Terrorist groups tend to claim responsibility for actions they did and did not carry out for the sake of gaining publicity.  It is unlikely that such a massive action was simply a trial for another one. However, the fact that the plane went down at a later stage does not mean that it was not brought down by a bomb. Such an action (the bomb detonating only later) serves to terrify even further as it shows the degree of control and professionalism those who planted it have. We will have to wait for the investigation, of course, but two possibilities come to mind. First, Islamists who support ISIS in Sinai (Egypt) were behind the action, but they did not wish to take credit, as that would legitimize President Sisi sending the army to crack down on terrorist cells in Sinai. The action, then, hurt Egypt under the belt while depriving it of legitimacy in carrying out anti-terror operations or even from sympathy worldwide. In such a scenario, the attack was a masterstroke of psychological warfare. The other alternative is that the bomb was not placed there by traditional terrorist groups but by a third party for separate reasons. This may seem like a wild idea and indeed, cannot at this stage be disproven or proven. However, EU security has been quite lax with a caravan full of arms making its way securely from western Europe to Greece, and the respective European security officials could have not but known about it or, in a less likely scenario, were exceptionally lax. But in light of the Brussels and Paris attacks which were carried out in broad daylight in sensitive areas, we should not have extreme confidence in EU security officials who, again, at best are lax if not worse. If an attack can take place in Brussels’ airport despite earlier warnings made by Israel and the US, then we cannot but wonder if what took place in both cases was more than just security officials not taking their job seriously.

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