We are entering a new era — one in which terrorists place bombs in the sky and detonate them whenever they see fit. In my opinion, EgyptAir MS804 is just the latest example of their ability to transform an airliner into an IED.
Every plane coming out of an area of unrest and Islamist activity is a potential bomb in the skies.
Authorities almost immediately agreed that MS804 was likely the victim of a terrorist attack. However, they aren’t able (yet) to discern how that took place, given the extensive passenger screening the flight underwent on each leg of its journey.
Ascertaining the method requires a look at the history of this particular flight — and an honest appraisal of who stood to gain from the destruction of this plane and the brutal slaughter of its passengers and crew.
Since 9/11, airline security has been focused on passengers and their luggage. Recent terror events, however, such as the explosion of the Russian jetliner over the Sinai Peninsula in October, make the case that our focus ought to turn to those who manage airport security and/or have access to aircraft while they are on the ground. Every plane coming out of an area of unrest and Islamist activity is a potential bomb in the skies.
This plane, which originated in Cairo as MS803, was set for a round-trip journey to Paris. The plane was on the ground in Cairo a full 24 hours before departing for Paris at 4:50 pm local time. It arrived in Paris at 9:40 pm and, by 10:45 pm, had taken off for the return leg of the journey.
While it was on the ground in Paris, there was little time for a thorough security check of the aircraft. But due to the short turnaround, there was equally little time to smuggle a bomb on board, especially in light of the increased security presence at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Exactly six hours from the time it originally departed Cairo, the plane made its two inexplicable maneuvers before disappearing entirely, almost certainly from a catastrophic mid-air explosion. This timeline would suggest that the lethal device was already on the airliner before it left Cairo.
The terrorists who placed the explosive device on MS804, I believe, were embedded among the security personnel entrusted with sweeping the aircraft for potential danger in Cairo. There are reasons to suspect the compromise of the security personnel in Egypt other than opportunity and access. Events in Egypt in recent weeks provide some insight.
Beginning a fortnight ago, Egypt as a country has been wracked with violence and unrest, between Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored rioters and the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The Egyptian National Police (the equivalent of our Homeland Security, FBI, and CIA all rolled into one) is itself perpetrating much of the violence directed at Egypt’s own citizens. Hundreds of shops, hotels, and historic shopping areas throughout the country have been put to the torch, further crippling an already weak and tottering economy. Citizens are threatened and assaulted daily by members of the National Police, an organization that appears to be unraveling themselves, perhaps irreparably.
- Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s ousted ex-president, ran the country for a year.
The National Police has been infiltrated and undermined by a number of Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers; many of them participated in the Arab Spring uprising, sabotaging police efforts to regain control of Tahrir Square. They were not relieved from their duties for their actions, but only reassigned, giving rise to speculation that the Muslim Brotherhood had “friends in high places” among the security apparatus of the Egyptian government.
These same officers surfaced again recently as the prime suspects in the assassination of eight police officials. The eight plainclothes officers died when the minibus in which they were traveling was showered with bullets from a nearby truck. More than 100 shell casings were found on the scene. The men responsible have melted back into the background and, at the time of this writing, have not been found.
The Muslim Brotherhood briefly gained power with the election of their leader, Mohammed Morsi, following the deposing of then-President Hosni Mubarak during the so-called “Arab Spring.” Elated at having achieved their decades-old goal of seizing the reins of power, Morsi and his supporters began a series of actions to consolidate and secure their positions indefinitely — essentially ensuring that no challenger would ever succeed in removing the Brotherhood from power, actions that led to the overthrow of the Morsi government by the Egyptian military.
Described as a military coup by the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Obama administration, the truth is that the military acted at the behest of the legislature, to protect the established rule of law that Morsi had declared void.
- Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the current president of Egypt.
The Brotherhood will do whatever is necessary to regain power in Egypt. Their most effective tactic thus far has been to make the current president appear weak and unable to keep his promises to restore security, prosperity, and stability to the nation.
The possible attack against MS804; the attack against the Russian airliner; the widespread arson of historically significant tourist areas; and the internal disruption of the National Police force have all been weapons in the Brotherhood’s arsenal as they create chaos and doubt in the minds of all Egyptians.
When faith in the el-Sisi government is irreparably broken, the people will cry out for authoritative leadership. So it is no accident an EgyptAir plane was targeted. It is a fact that the plane was on the ground in Cairo with plenty of time for Brotherhood sympathizers among the security forces to place an explosive device on board. The wanton and seemingly random destruction of a few aircraft with innocent passengers aboard — this is a useful tool in the hands of Islamists.
Add to this anarchical brew the support by el-Sisi for a French-backed plan to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians by effectively removing Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood-promoted narrative of el-Sisi “selling out” the Islamic agenda wins el-Sisi no friends in his homeland.
It is vital we understand the enemy and focus our efforts on identifying those whose ideology renders them a source of danger.
With the apparent capability to turn airliners into IEDs in their arsenal, we must ask: Where will the next plane come down? Flights originating and stopping in Cairo arrive in major American cities each and every day. If the terrorists are able to bring down a plane a full six hours after placing the device on board, might they soon have the ability (if not already) to time the explosion to take place over New York City, Washington, D.C., or some other densely populated American city?
In nations of unrest and pervasive Islamic influence, it is not only crucial that passengers are screened, but that security personnel are also vetted and re-vetted on a random and continual basis.
Who are these security personnel and to whom do they owe their allegiance? If we are not asking these questions and investigating the answers, we are setting the stage for further terrorist attacks from our skies.
The men we are dealing with are very sophisticated, endowed with nearly unlimited funding — and they take the long view in achieving their goals. Our short attention span regarding security policy is a weak and brittle bulwark against people willing to wait decades before making their move. It is vital we understand the enemy we face and focus our efforts correctly to identify those whose ideology renders them a source of danger.
Islam doesn’t have a “violence” problem. That is merely an inevitable downstream consequence of the fundamental principle that animates Islam, that being a devotion to achieving theological and political supremacy over all the earth and its people, as commanded by Islam’s prophet, Mohammed.
This teaching is a core element of Islam and renders it poisonous to humanity. The violent targeting of innocent noncombatants is simply the tool through which this corrosive teaching finds its expression in reality. Consequently, any meaningful opposition to terrorist aggression must first recognize and target this teaching as both illegitimate and illegal to propound.
Central to surviving in this new era is the recognition that these incidents are not isolated events. Whether perpetrated by this terror group or that terror group, our enemy is easily identified and their motives discerned (and their intentions thwarted!) — if only, in my opinion, we have the political courage to do so.
Mark Christian, M.D., is the founder and executive director of the Global Faith Institute (globalfaith.org) and is an Egyptian émigré to the United States and a convert to Christianity. His father and uncle remain high-ranking leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in his former home of Cairo.