October 31, 2015: IS in the Sinai bombing of Egyptian airliner

IS in the Sinai claimed the bombing of an Egyptian airliner that resulted in the deaths of all 225 passengers in October 2015.

IS in the Sinai claimed the bombing of an Egyptian airliner that resulted in the deaths of all 225 passengers in October 2015.

NORTHERN SINAI, EGYPT – Aircraft bombings will likely always be the pinnacle of terrorist achievements.

If you are a terrorist keen to make your ‘mark’ there cannot be anything greater to aspire to than an aircraft as your target. After all, planes are full of people – or at least they were before COVID devastated the airline and tourism industries! Those people have nowhere to go – but down – when something goes wrong. And a successful attack on a plane is guaranteed to get you and your group front page news for a good long while.

It should come as no surprise, then, that terrorist really do consider bombing a plane as the top banana of operations. Need a reminder?

  • the 9/11 attack involved four commercial airliners (although they were flown into buildings rather than bombed);
  • the Lockerbie attack of 1988 killed 259 and was blamed on Libya and Colonel Qadhafi;
  • the Air India downing in 1985 was the single largest terrorist attack in history prior to 9/11 and was orchestrated by Sikh terrorists in Canada.

In the wake of operations such as these, and especially the events in New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania in 2001, authorities immediately up their security protocols in an effort to prevent the next one. Shoes, bottles, underwear – what else do we have to agree to have checked before we get on a plane?

And yet the terrorists keep trying. No matter what the newest security efforts, violent extremists go back to the same target for all the aforementioned reasons. A success gets you attention and nothing breeds success like success.

Take this date in 2015 for example. A Russian Metrojet (flight 9268) left the Egyptian resort of Sharm al Shaikh in the Sinai Peninsula bound for St. Petersburg. At 0613 local time the Airbus 321-231 was bombed out of the sky, killing all 224 passengers and crew aboard. The disaster was the single greatest in Russian and Egyptian aviation history.

The Islamic State (IS) affiliate in the Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group published a photograph in its Dabiq magazine showing a soft drink can and two components that appear to be a detonator and a switch. IS in the Sinai has been very active over the last few years and has killed hundreds and wounded thousands. Egyptian security forces appear to have had a hard time keeping up with the group.

It doesn’t take much to bring down a plane in flight if it’s placed in the most critical area of the aircraft, breaking the fuselage.

Anthony May, retired explosives enforcement officer

As long as air travel is popular, terrorists targeting of this mode of transportation will be as well. I wish it were different.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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