Russia last night announced the results of its investigation into the Sharm el-Sheikh plane crash in Egypt. It was a bomb. Traces of explosives were found.
Alexander Bortnikov, the chief of the country's FSB domestic security agency, said that a bomb equivalent to 2.2 pounds of TNT exploded on board the aircraft, according to the Kremlin.
"You can definitely say that this is a terrorist act," he told a meeting of Russia's Security Council on Monday.
Russia is offering a $50 million reward for information on the perpetrator(s.) And, Putin said in his announcement, Russia has no intention of letting up on its airstrikes in Syria. [More...]
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Turns out, the hotel security staff has been using fake metal detecting wands.
Sharm el-Sheikh now resembles a ghost town.
Apparently, what made all the governments 90% sure it was a bomb was some last second sound on the black box cockpit voice recorder. The turnaround in opinion was immediate. No one has described the sound, calling it an "unknown sound", with many assuming it was of an explosion. I'm wondering if the sound wasn't something else -- like someone shouting "Allahu Akbar", which only takes a second to say.
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[Photo by Gulf Online]
Pieter Van Ostaeyen, (Historian, Arabist, and Islamist) whose analysis and musings on international Jihadism and foreign fighters I have been following for over a year, initially doubted the claim of ISIS' Wilayat Sinai that it was responsible for the Russian airplane crash in Egypt, as did many other analysts and journalists, because of the mistaken assumption that the group claimed to have shot down the plane. (the "Manpad" issue.) Now he isn't sure, but he writes that bomb or no bomb, ISIS scored a major win with the claim.
Whether or not the plane was taken down by The Islamic State, they won anyway. In the strategic battle with the West and Russia IS made a winner strike. Several European countries are repatriating their nationals, thousands of people are supposed to be leaving Sharm el-Sheikh in the next few days. Several airline operators suspended flights to the airport of Sharm el-Sheikh. Flights leaving today, made a u-turn, … Belgian tour operators even sent in their own security personnel and bomb sniffing dogs.
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"To the skeptics and decriers we say: die in your rage! We downed it by the grace of G-d, but we are not required to explain how we did it.
So, inspect the wreckage of the aircraft, analyze your black box, make your conclusions based on your expertise, and prove that we did not down nor else prove how it fell. Eat your hearts out! We downed it by the grace of G-d. G-d willing, we will explain how we did it at a time and manner of our own choosing.
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Terrorism theories got a boost yesterday, amid reports that US infrared satellite detected a heat flash over the Sinai at the time the Russian passenger jet went down, and statements by Kogalymavia Airlines (Metrojet in Russia) ruling out structural failure, technical defects and pilot error.
But there still are no reports of evidence of an explosive device in the debris, and it also doesn't appear anything external hit the plane. While that leaves fewer scenarios, such as a bomb on board, sabotage, or the tail falling off , it still doesn’t answer the question of whether ISIS had anything to do with the crash.[More...]
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Yesterday, ISIS's Wilayat Sinai (background here) claimed responsibility for the crash of Kogalymavia Airline flight #7K9268 from the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg, Russia, in which all 224 persons on board, including 25 children were killed. (The passenger list is here. All but 4 were Russian - 4 were Ukranian, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Ukraine.)
Russia said ISIS' claim was false and ISIS doesn't have "manpads" that can shoot down a plane at 30,000 feet. )Manpads stands for man-portable air-defense systems. ) Almost everyone is mocking ISIS' claim. But ISIS didn't say it shot the plane down. It just said it was able to bring it down. Earlier reports that the pilot had radioed of technical difficulty and intended to make an emergency landing have now been disputed by officials.
Could there have been a bomb on board? Could it have been on-board sabotage? No one knows right now. [More...]
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Egypt's Foreign Ministry has issued a new style guide for media coverage of terrorism. It bans the use of the words "ISIS, ISIL or Islamic State." It instructs reporters not to use any religious based terms when referring to terrorist groups, including "jihadists", "Islamists" or "fundamentalists." Reporters cannot refer to leaders of these groups with the label "Sheikh" or "Emir."
How are reporters supposed to refer to the groups? The guide says the acceptable terms include "terrorists, extremists, criminals, murderers, savages, slaughterers, assassins, radicals, fanatics, rebels" and a few others.
You can read the new rules here.
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The BBC says Hosni Mubarak has scheduled a news conference. It is expected he will give up his power now -- or at least, as one official tells BBC, he won't be President on Friday.
Al Jazeera has this profile of Omar Suleiman.
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tells Christine Amanpour he won't leave office now.
"If I resign today, there will be chaos," he said. Asked to comment on calls for him to resign, he said: "I don't care what people say about me. Right now I care about my country."
The New York Times reports the Obama Administration is discussing proposals with Egyptian officials for Mubarak to step down now.
More marches are planned for tomorrow. Will he stay or will he go?
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"We've already said good-bye...Go now"
President Obama called Egypt President Hosni Mubarak after his announcement today to tell him the transition to a new government needs to begin now:
He said he told Mubarak of "my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."
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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is speaking now. Rough summary:
I never sought power for influence. My top priority is to restore the security and stability of the nation. I did not intend to run again. I have exhausted my life serving Egypt. I am intent on ending my career and handing over the power in a way that preserves the stability and security of the nation.
In the few months of my remaining term, I will work for the peaceful transition of power.
I will be judged by history.
Speech over. The crowd is chanting, cheering and jeckling. This falls short of what they wanted. Now they are chanting "Leave, leave." Very strong emotion in the chanting.
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Update: Finally Mubarak speaks. New thread for speech here.
Update: (10:50 pm Cairo time): Mubarak sure is drawing this out. Egyptian state TV is still saying "any minute."
Update (10:26 pm Cairo time): Still waiting for Mubarak's statement. Apparently, it will be recorded, not given live. MSNBC reports President Obama may speak afterwards.
Update (10:08 pm Cairo time): The crowd is getting louder. They are chanting "Freedom" and "May it be tonight." The crowd also seems thinned out. (In the crowd I saw a sign from today saying "Yes we can too." ) Here's a live screengrab from al Jazeera's live feed.
Update (10 pm Cairo time): You can watch the release of Mubarak's statement live when it happens here.
Reuters reports, via Al Arabiya TV, that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak will give a speech today and say he's decided not to run for re-election in September. He also says he has "a solution." [More...]
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"There's something happening here...."
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