The fate of EgyptAir Flight MS-804 has once again thrown the media spotlight on Paris, France, where the plane took off for Cairo before going down over the Mediterranean Sea.
All 66 people aboard perished.
U.S. intelligence agencies said the crash exhibited “indications of an explosion.”
The airliner, only 13 years old, was cruising at high altitude in good weather conditions when it suddenly went down. There was no call of distress.
While much of the media has focused on Paris as the location where a terrorist could have loaded a bomb onto the plane, an expert of Egyptian politics and the Muslim Brotherhood says look again at Cairo.
The plane left Cairo for Paris and then was on a return flight to Cairo when it went down.
It only sat on the ground in Paris for an hour, said Dr. Mark Christian, founder and president of the Global Faith Institute, an Omaha-Nebraska-based think tank that focuses on Islamic terrorism.
Christian, who grew up in Egypt the son of a Muslim Brotherhood member and became a child imam by the age of 14, says the Brotherhood has the most to gain from a terror attack on EgyptAir and has been active in a string of terror attacks recently in the country.
Eight national police officers were killed in an ambush as they got off a government minivan in central Cairo May 8. Five former police officers suspected of carrying out the attack remain on the run.
A string of fires have been set at Egyptian tourist sites within the last two weeks.
The economy is in shambles with inflation approaching 40 percent.
The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is seen as vulnerable, and the Muslim Brotherhood would like nothing better than to topple him.
“Nobody can dispute that the Muslim Brotherhood is doing whatever they can to turn the tide and remove the military from power and take over Egypt again and oust the current administration of Sisi that is backed up by the Russians and has been estranged from America and the West,” Christian said. “To take out Sisi, you have to do three things: destroy the economy, stability and security of the country.”
The fires set at tourist sites strike at the heart of Egypt’s economy. The attacks on the police by insiders strikes at the national security apparatus.
“This is all meant to weaken Sisi and show he’s not capable of running the country,” Christian said.
The fact that the plane was only on the ground in Paris for an hour makes it unlikely someone was able to sneak a bomb onto the flight. The French are known to have one of the tightest airport security systems in the world and would have been on high alert give the recent terror attacks there.
“If you look at the circumstances of this attack, it is not a coincidence that the last several incidents took place in Egypt, the first being the Russian plane downed over the Sinai killing all 224 passengers and now this, all in a matter of six months. So you look at this and see there is a pattern, and who is benefiting from this? ISIS is not. The Muslim Brotherhood is.”
Christian says the obvious gap in security was in Egypt, “where you already have police officers turning into terrorists and you have people warring against each other. So it seems like something was put on the plane while sitting in Egypt. And so if it was a timed bomb, it exploded six hours after leaving Egypt.”
Recent attacks on tourist sites, security forces
What does the militant wing of the Muslim Brotherhood stand to benefit from this?
When Sisi took over Egypt and led a coup against the former Brotherhood-backed regime of Muhammad Morsi, he promised Egyptians he would lead them into prosperity and would keep them safe. He has not delivered on those promises, and now the Brotherhood smells its chance to return to power.
“Destroy the Egyptian tourist industry and expose the gaps in security, making Sisi look weak and leaving Egypt with more instability and economic distress,” Christian said. “All of this is an embarrassment for Sisi not only nationally but internationally as a man who cannot keep his country safe and as a man who is destroying the Egyptian economy.”
The Obama administration has done nothing to help bolster Sisi, as it has sided in the past with Morsi and the Brotherhood.
“The only organization that would benefit from this crime is not ISIS but the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS are one in the same anyway,” Christian said.
Christian said the Brotherhood has a secret militant wing that is involved in much of the dirty work of planning and fomenting terrorism in the Middle East.
“They work in concert with the non-militant political wing,” he said. “This is the key to the Brotherhood’s success from day one back to the 1940s.”
Phil Haney, a former Customs and Border Patrol officer who served two terms with Homeland Security’s National Targeting Center, said he agrees with Christian, especially in light of the activities of groups such as Hamas, and/or ISIS, which are operating in Egypt today, as well as other armed Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups operating in Jordan, Libya, Syria and Tunisia.
“The revelation came as security experts, ministers and former air accident investigators said all the evidence pointed to the plane being targeted in a terrorist attack,” said Haney, author of “See Something Say Nothing: A Homeland Security Officer Exposes the Government’s Submission to Jihad.”
“If confirmed, the disaster would deal another hammer blow to Egypt’s crippled tourism industry just months after a Russian Metrojet plane was brought down in the Sinai peninsula by a bomb planted at Sharm el-Sheikh airport,” Haney said.
ISIS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces and last October claimed the bombing of the Russian airliner that killed all 224 people on board.
The EgyptAir plane that crashed into the Mediterranean had flown to terror hotspots in Tunisia, Eritrea and Belgium in the days before the disaster.
If a bomb was not loaded aboard the plane in Cairo, it could have occurred in one of these other hotspots, Haney said.
More than 20 people were killed in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, in March last year when two Islamist militants stormed the Bardo Museum.
Meanwhile, Ethiopian authorities said last week they had thwarted a terror attack by jihadists who trained and armed in Eritrea’s capital of Asmara.
“If it turns out that the apparent bomb was place on board in Paris, then it becomes obvious that a sophisticated network of terrorist operatives has been established in France, and that they are operating with near impunity,” Haney said.
A ‘game changer’ for airport security?
“If the apparent bomb was placed on board before Flight MS804 arrived in Paris, this would engender a whole new set of questions and concerns, not only about the level of security at each one of the three other airports, but also about the affiliations and sophistication of the individuals involved in planning and coordinating such an attack.”
Haney said Western intelligence will be mistaken if they believe only ISIS would carry out an attack like this.
“These kind of attacks benefit an entire coalition of affiliated Salafi jihadist groups, which are all part of the global Islamic movement,” Haney said, and that global movement is headed by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Christian said the destruction of Egypt Air Flight 803 is a “game changer,” especially if it turns out that airport security personnel in Cairo were involved in planting the bomb on board the plane.
“This plane going down is a complete game changer, because since 9/11 aviation security has been focused on the passengers and their luggage, but now you have planes coming from jihadist areas, and you have no idea how they have been screened. And they may come to the West and to America as a ticking bomb,” he said.
“If they can time one to go off in six hours, then they can push it to 11 hours, and that means a plane can explode after leaving New York City having come from Cairo. So here they are screening people and luggage, but now you have a plane that is exploding as it takes off with a timed bomb. For American aviation, that is a huge big deal. And if you are going to miss that perspective, then we can miss a ticking bomb that is targeting America.”