Cairo – An unexpected twist has happened in the case of a Russian passenger plane that was bombed over Sinai in Egypt in late 2015.
The plane was travelling from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg in Russia on October 31, 2015, when it exploded, 20 minutes after takeoff. Wreckage collected from the desert of Sinai showed the enormity of the blast that happened in the plane, but investigators initially ruled out the possibility of a terrorist attack.
They, however, put this possibility on the table a short time later. Investigations into the attempted bombing of an Emirati plane that was travelling from Sydney to Dubai in 2017 confirmed these doubts. A man arrested in connection with the attempted bombing of this plane, Australian national Khalid al-Khayat, revealed earlier this month that he collaborated with a Danish man in the name of Basil Hassan.
He threw a bombshell when he added that Hassan was also involved in the bombing of the Russian passenger plane over Sinai in late 2015. The plane’s bombing cost Egypt very dearly and deprived it of tens of billions of dollars in lost tourism revenues in the four years that followed it.
The bombing of Metrojet Flight no. 9268 caused all passengers and crew members on board to die. Its effects were also fatal for the Egyptian economy. Almost all countries, especially major tourist markets Russia, Italy, Germany, the UK, and Spain, suspended flights to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, including Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
This suspended the flow of foreign tourists to Egypt, which caused a huge number of tourist establishments and facilities to shut down. This also caused hundreds of thousands of tourism workers to lose their jobs and become jobless.
Tourism contributes around 12% of Egypt’s annual national income. It directly employs over 5 million Egyptians and a larger number of Egyptians indirectly. The loss of tourism revenues exposed the vulnerabilities of the Egyptian economy and forced the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi into painful reforms that included the liberalization of the exchange rate of the Egyptian pound and the slashing of most subsidies. The government also had to borrow $12 billion from the International Monetary Fund.
Revelations about the perpetrator of the bombing are causing fury in Egypt and precipitating calls for action from Egyptian authorities.
“The attack has had a huge economic toll on Egypt,” said renowned Egyptian columnist Hamdi Rezk. “This is why revelations about its perpetrators should not pass unnoticed in Egypt.”
The way Hassan and other collaborators, who are yet to be revealed, carried out the bombing of the plane is still unclear. Born in 1987, Hassan is a well-known fanatic to Danish authorities. In 2013, he tried to murder Danish historian and journalist, Lars Hedegaard, after he criticized the Islamic religion and described it as a “threat” to the freedoms the Europeans enjoy.
In 2014, Turkish authorities arrested Hassan who featured in an INTERPOL list of international wanted figures. Nevertheless, Turkey released him a short time later, reportedly in a swap deal with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The deal underscored the importance of this man for the terrorist organization which at the time was growing at a very alarming pace in Iraq and Syria.
Hassan was known to be the mastermind of some of the attacks staged by ISIS outside Iraq and Syria. An engineer by study, he also contributed to designing the drone program developed by ISIS before the collapse of its caliphate.
The plane bombing was tragic for Russia too. Footage of the relatives of the victims of the bombing harrowing toward the airport in St. Petersburg to receive their remains was full of bitterness. This is why security analysts in Cairo highlight the importance of conducting new investigations into the bombing to determine those behind it.
ISIS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the view here is that some states could also have been behind it with the aim of harming Egypt’s economic interests and harming its ties with Moscow.
“Danish authorities are supposed to hand over Hassan to Egypt,” said security expert Gamal Eddine Mazloum. “He had caused untold damage to both Egypt and Russia.”